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Life Story / Obituary
Wonderful, witty, and wise, Barbara Beal lived a heart-centered life rich in art and adventure. Creative and fun loving, Barb possessed a passion for nature and a desire to inspire beauty, compassion, and love in the hearts of others. Treasured by many, Barb will forever be missed by all who were blessed to share time with her.
1954 was the year the nation learned to “Rock Around The Clock” and that “Father Knows Best.” Young people across America embraced the new sounds that came with the recording of Elvis Presley’s first album as well as M&M’s Chocolate Candies’ “melt in your mouth and not in your hand,” sweet delights. As more and more housewives left the home and entered the workforce, the economy continued to grow as did the number of convenience items like TV Dinners and more and more fast food restaurants. It was a time of robust change and much hope for the future. Nowhere was there more hope than in the home of Philip III and Martha (Rea) Beal as they welcomed their youngest child, Barbara Susan, into their family on June 17th.
Growing up in Kalamazoo, Barb enjoyed the good company of her three older siblings; Philip, Helene, and Sally. From her earliest days, Barb’s gift for art and love of nature was evident, as was her love of learning and people. Whether going to school, playing tennis, exploring the outdoors, or spending time with family and friends, Barb always lead with her heart. Her eccentric and creative spirit attracted many friends who easily found life more joyful with Barb at their side.
After graduating from Loy Norrix High School in 1972, Barb went on to Albion College to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Art and Psychology. It was here that Barb acquired the nickname “Bealer”, and was also a “sorority girl”, a member of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority. She graduated with her degree in 1976 and returned home to Kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo was where Barb made her home for the rest of her years. While she never married nor had children, she relished in sharing the lives of her friends and family. She also worked as a ward clerk at Borgess Medical Center for a time.
With a heart that knew no bounds, Barb had many, many loves. There wasn’t an animal she didn’t love, and she relished in the joy of a fine meal. Barb designed and decorated her home, while also painting many beautiful oils and abstracts. She loved finery, jewelry, and was deeply proud of her family heritage and background. She traveled extensively to witness first hand the art and culture of the world and grew to especially love Florence, Italy; Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque, Mexico, and the Florida Keys. Key West Island Morata proved a particularly special place. While there she had the opportunity to get to know famous treasure hunter Mel Fisher who personally dubbed her “The Duchess of the Conch of the Republic.” Barb also had a deep love for music and movement; regardless of how challenging it became, she was active in her pursuit of physical fitness. Over the years she ran, practiced yoga, did aerobics, and danced.
Barb was a person who felt deeply and whose capacity for empathy both fueled and drained her. Not only did her artist’s soul help her see beauty and wonder where others could not, but it also gave her deep insight into the pain in the world. Both a gift and a challenge, this sensitivity often resulted in the sense of overwhelm for that which she could not change. Even so, Barb fought to meet each day with a warrior’s spirit; she bravely battled the increasing power of clinical depression her entire life as well as the demands that came with becoming legally blind. In the face of life’s hardships, Barb often found temporary solace and restoration in the wonders of nature. As she listened to the inspiring power of a good thunderstorm, gazed upon the heavens, felt the warmth of the sun on her face, and breathed in the rejuvenating scent of fresh spring rain, Barb felt a oneness with Mother Earth and the power of being Divinely held.
Without a doubt, the sudden absence of Barb’s colorful spirit has us feeling sad and uncertain. As we grieve our loss, may we find comfort in knowing that each time we enjoy a lobster dinner, take the time to lay on our backs and witness the splendor of the clouds, allow our quirkiness to be seen by others, feel the wind in our hair, or choose to live wholeheartedly, we continue to keep Barb’s bright spirit burning in our lives and hearts. In so doing, her legacy will inspire others just as she inspired us.
Barbara Susan Beal died unexpectedly February 15, 2018, at her home. She was born June 17, 1954, in Kalamazoo, the daughter of Philip III and Martha (Rea) Beal. She was preceded in death by parents; by a brother-in-law, Kenneth B Weiss and her beloved dachsie, Suzi. Surviving are 3 siblings: Philip IV (Chris) Beal, Helene (Bill) Korinko and Sally B. Weiss; niece and nephews: Philip V, Martha, and Billy and several cousins. Cremation will take place. Services will be held Wednesday 11am at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 followed by a reception in the Life Story Center. Please visit Barb’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can read her story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Leader Dogs for the Blind, Community Healing Center, or Kalamazoo Public Safety.