K.M.Beasley, Jr., passed away unexpectedly on the first
Sunday morning in May. And if you didn’t know K.M., it’s most likely because
you never had the privilege of meeting him.
Because, if you had met him even once, a friendship would
have been formed, or at least have been well underway.
When I think about a life well-lived, K.M. is among the
first people who come to mind. As he used to put it, with eyes bright and
smile broadening, he “enjoyed the dickens” out of seemingly every activity
he undertook. While he didn’t seem to seek the limelight, the light would
invariably find him; wherever a group was gathered, K.M. would be there in
the middle, sharing a tall tale or helpful anecdote, consoling a friend over
a loss, or laughing over the latest silly turn in our nation’s political
It’s tough, well-nigh impossible, to capture the essence
of K.M. in a phrase, a sentence, or even a paragraph. You could say he was a
cattle farmer, and a “character,” in that gentle Southern reference to folks
who are larger than life. But either description wouldn’t really do him
could absolutely say that he would have been a great politician, had he had
any interest in elective office. But he was also an enthusiastic amateur
historian, a woodstove thinker in the wintertime, and a hayfield humorist in
the summer. Above all, he was a devoted husband, dad and granddad.
His keen mind would relentlessly scan a broad horizon of
interests, from the plight of daily newspapers, to the implications of
China’s emergence as a world power, to the future of the family farm.
I knew him mainly in his role as an electric cooperative
leader. K.M.’s effusive personality and love for the cooperative business
model made him a tireless advocate for cooperatives, and a natural choice to
lead them. At his death, in fact, he was serving as chairman of the board of
the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, the
regional trade group that publishes this magazine, as well as on the board
of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative.
While ours was a business relationship, he always made me
feel like an old friend. He would share tales of his brief experience as a
ship’s mate; his career as a rural banker and realtor; and above all his joy
in his family and the little country church they attended. And then there
were all the stories of his boyhood in Southside’s Buckingham County,
growing up on a small family farm, with a wonderful brother and parents,
learning through early mornings and long days the ins and outs, ups and
downs, satisfactions and frustrations of family farming.
Those tough early lessons served him well, teaching him a
relentless work ethic matched only by his relentlessly inquisitive mind and
his invariably upbeat greeting to all, whether stranger, acquaintance or
friend, on the street corner in Farmville, in the coffee shop in Appomattox,
or from the seat of his tractor.
In this post-modern age, few of us live on the same plot
of earth for a childhood, much less a lifetime. K.M., though, spent his
adult days on familiar fields, fields on which he worked, over and over,
planting and cutting hay, feeding and watering cattle, and all the while
walking and thinking, pondering and planning.
These fields were the very ones on which, as a boy, he had
learned farming from his parents. The Beasley Farm, and the earth beneath
it, would end up sustaining him as a married man, with a wife and two
children, and with a beautiful home that he built and in which their
children would grow to successful adulthood.
Eulogies at memorial services, and in print, tend to be
sad, because they’re written to celebrate those who’ve passed on, those we
wish were still with us, alive, happy, in their prime. Every day, K.M.
celebrated life, life in general, his own life, and that of those around
In looking for a quote that would capture K.M.’s
liveliness and zest for life, I came across this one from the late Theodor
Geisel, the groundbreaking children’s author best known as Dr. Seuss, which
puts the pain of loss into perspective: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile
because it happened.”