Editorial

Here's to You, K.M.

An ambassador for electric cooperatives leaves us without warning, but with a rich storehouse of stories and lessons.

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

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 life.

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 justice.

You 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 him.

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.”  

 

 

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