Ray Duckler: Time to pay back Beanie for all she’s done
Things got done on a recent afternoon on Clinton Street in Concord.
All in the name of Beanie.
“Melanie and Paul will be cooking hot dogs and hamburgers.”
“Don’t worry about posts for the fencing.”
“Saturday night I’ll put up the big posters.”
“I’m trying to get a deal on porta-potties.”
That’s how it went, crisp and efficient dialogue by people planning the fifth edition of their Blues for Beanie Festival. It’s Sunday at the Kimball-Jenkins Estate. The gate opens at noon, the music at 1 p.m.
Bands will play, money will be raised and, hopefully, lots of people will show up and ask about Concord’s Jeannine David, who she is, what she stands for, what she’s done for others.
There’s a lot to cover when writing about Beanie, the nickname that stuck when her baby sister had trouble saying “Jeannine.”
Beanie gave and gave and gave some more, so after suffering severe brain trauma in a car wreck in late 2008, family and friends are giving back to her.
Money raised helps make life easier for Beanie and her husband, Gary David, a 62-year-old man with a lengthy salt-and-pepper beard and a wife who he says hasn’t changed much since ice caused her car to go off the road 5½ years ago.
“She is just the love of my life,” says Gary, who made a living doing structural repairs. “People ask how
Beanie is doing. The things most people consider quite a struggle, and I’m sure are a struggle for her – limited mobility, slow motor skills – people cannot understand it when I say she’s doing great. A smile every day.”
She smiled every second at the organizational meeting I attended, listening to details fly around the living room, where she and Gary were married more than 40 years ago.
Beanie and Gary actually carved out their reputations as givers in Hill. Beanie worked clerical jobs so Gary could get his construction business off the ground.
And she did more.
Vicki Seavey of Loudon, Gary’s sister, was at the meeting. She cared for her mother for 15 years. When she needed a break, an emotional break, guess who came over to help?
“Beanie was the first one at my doorstep,” Seavey said. “Other situations when I needed extra help, she was always the one to show up. My daughter trying to make money and sell jewelry, and it didn’t matter where the fair was, Aunt Beanie would show up.”
Nick David, Beanie’s nephew, was at the meeting, too. His band, Mr. Nick and the Dirty Tricks, will lead things off Sunday, one of five musical acts to appear.
Nick plays harmonica and sings. He’s a professional musician who says he owes a lot to Aunt Beanie. It was Beanie, after all, whose singing in local clubs – songs by Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Pat Benatar – sparked something inside Nick, Beanie who went to Boston and Memphis to hear Nick’s band play in prestigious competitions, Beanie who gave her young nephew the sound system he still uses today.
“One of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever known,” said Nick, 41. “A real humanitarian. She spent much of her time giving back and doing whatever she could to help out her community. There’s never been anything disingenuous about her. Just a beautiful person inside and out.”
She spread that beauty around, volunteering for the Visiting Nurse Association, cooking at the Bread & Roses soup kitchen, working with the local historical society, caring for her aging mother.
And when Fran, a neighbor in her 80s, hit her head in a fall and needed medical care, and then doctors recommended assisted living for the rest of Fran’s life, guess who put her foot down and took care of Fran?
“It was against the entire medical team’s recommendations,” Gary said. “She didn’t care.”
Beanie also served as caregiver for her own mother. That was her role Dec. 8, 2008, when she had an interview scheduled with a Franklin radio station. As usual, Beanie was doing for others, this time going on the air to promote the soup kitchen, the one that relied on public funds.
It snowed that day. “Do you have to go?” Gary said he asked Beanie.
“It’s once a year,” Beanie answered. “I have to go.”
Beanie’s car slid on ice. Details from Gary were unclear. He wants it that way.
“I don’t want to go there too much about what went on,” he said. “That morning was terrible weather. I satisfied my curiosity and my take on it, and beyond that, I don’t want to know any details. There was another car involved, and it sounded like Beanie was out of control on an icy curve.”
Beanie didn’t speak for two months, then began blinking to communicate. She spent a year at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center.
She was released Christmas Eve 2009, eight months after her mother passed away. “A few of our family members were here,” Gary said, “and we just acted like we were thrilled to be here. And we were.”
The couple moved in, back home, in a sense. Beanie uses a wheelchair and speaks softly, but her smile continues to blind anyone who visits.
Seavey is one of her caregivers, twice a week. She’s known Beanie for 40 years.
“Our relationship is no different than before the accident,” Seavey said. “She’s happy to be here. Knowing how happy she is to be here no matter the circumstances tells me she’s doing fantastic. Things have changed, but she smiles and laughs, all the things we want to do. Nothing wrong with that.”
The Blues for Beanie Festival has raised a few thousand dollars each summer, but the crowds have been disappointing.
This summer, though, Seavey is optimistic that more people will show up. “I’m feeling great about it,” she said. “I’m feeling like this year will be our best yet because there are more people involved, and it makes it easier for everyone to get things done.”
The meeting I sat in on flowed smoothly, like a band of polished musicians feeding off each other. With pencils scribbling on notepads and a ceiling fan circling slowly above, the subtle needs for a project like this were tossed back and forth.
Things like grills and building the stage and T-shirt sales and spatulas and advertising and ticket sales and parking were discussed.
“The parking lot has filled up, but we’ve never needed more space than that,” said Judy Sterndale of Vermont, a close family friend. “I hope that won’t be a problem.”
“I hope it is,” Seavey said.