Beachley blazed a trail for women

Longtime educator's activities had major impact on Washington County

Longtime educator's activities had major impact on Washington County

December 24, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

Born in an era when women weren't always encouraged to take active roles outside the home, marriage and family, Louise Funk Beachley didn't let that slow her down, let alone stand in her way.

"She blazed the way for many young women today," said her cousin and lifelong friend, Jeannette Kaylor Rutledge.

Educated as a teacher, Louise deftly combined career with being the wife of a prominent physician and the mother of two daughters. In her spare time, Louise organized and served on numerous boards and committees and with other groups that continue to have an impact on her beloved Washington County.

Louise died Dec. 16 at the age of 98 at Homewood Retirement Center in Williamsport.

"I used to visit her at Homewood, often after church," said Wells Ridenour, who shared a membership with Louise at Zion United Church of Christ in Hagerstown. It was only in the week before she died that she no longer knew him when he visited, Wells said.


Since the 1980s, Wells and Louise had been getting together regularly when she needed transportation to medical appointments and club meetings. Wells said Louise often would ask him to take her to get either roast beef at Roy Rogers, seafood at Chic's or ice cream at Superior Dairy before he took her back home.

He would happily comply.

Mary Jo Wellman said her friendship with Louise began when as a teenager, she would go home after high school with Louise's daughter, JoAnn.

"I would stay at the Beachley home whenever I wanted to stay in town," Mary Jo recalled. "I remember how we used to eat watercress sandwiches."

The friendship continued through the years and her fondness for Louise deepened, even after both JoAnn and Mary Jo had grown up and had children of their own.

"I got so I always called Louise sweetheart," Mary Jo said.

Jeannette said she, too, is filled with warm memories of bygone days with her cousin, Louise.

"We spent a lot of time at my grandmother's home in Beaver Creek," Jeannette said, explaining that her grandmother and Louise's grandmother were sisters. "We played croquet and rode around in a pony cart."

Jeannette said it was Louise's ancestors who started the town of Funkstown.

"They had a paper mill there and a home in Beaver Creek," she said.

Six years younger, Jeannette said she followed her cousin to study at Hood College in Frederick, Md. Through the years, they remained close by way of family gatherings and outings, as well as telephone calls every other day or so.

"We'd always get together on Sundays for ice cream," Jeannette said. Sadly, they drifted apart when Louise went to Homewood.

While many people marveled at how many organizations Louise belonged to over the years, Jeannette was quick to point out that in many cases, Louise was the one who actually started them.

For instance, Louise organized and was the first president of the Washington County chapter of the American Association of University Women. She also organized and was the first president of the Washington County Medical Alliance.

She served on the Hagerstown Charter Rewriting Committee, in which reference to gender was removed. She also organized the local chapter of the American Cancer Society and served on the board of directors.

"When she started developing the housing project at Robinwood, where she built and sold houses and building lots, she wanted me to help her sell houses," Jeannette said. "I protested, but she insisted."

Jeannette said Louise had an old station wagon that she used when putting up signs and taking down bushes around those properties.

"She looked like a carpenter going to work," Jeannette said.

Louise also served on the board of education when it was the board of trustees of Hagerstown Junior College and helped obtain the land where the college, now Hagerstown Community College, sits.

She held offices and memberships at the Women's Club of Hagerstown, PTA, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and Daughters of the American Revolution.

She also provided many of the furnishings for the Beaver Creek Museum and was its curator.

Noting all of the accomplishments Louise achieved during her rich, full life, Mary Jo said Louise always considered herself, first and foremost, an educator.

At a ceremony five years ago dedicating the Beachley pavilion near the former Beaver Creek School, Mary Jo spoke of her friend's contributions to her community.

"We are very pleased she's passed our way," Mary Jo said in 2000.

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