Saturday, March 31, 2012

October 31, 1984

It's starting to get light outside early now around 5:30 a.m. Consequently, that's when I usually wake up, with the first light. I just read an article on the positive aspects of the "father-absent" home. We are simply living in an alternative lifestyle and will need alternative solutions to our problems. I want you to be happy with your lifestyle. We have a great time together, seeing and exploring the world, roughhousing at night, and just loving each other. I will provide a loving, nurturing environment for you to develop in.

I went into your room just now and watched you sleeping, so peacefully.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chris, 1984

Precious one, how did I get so lucky? Someone told me today that I was the proudest mother they'd ever met! Well, maybe not the proudest, but certainly, the happiest!

You're so good for me!

Another lucky thing...you've been sleeping through the night for a month now, but still, I am always sleepy!

At four months of age, a quick list of the things you're doing:
  • Smiling when you're smiled at
  • Reaching for me and your toys
  • Not crawling yet, but soon will be
  • Grabbing your spoon when you eat (or "suck") your cereal
  • Looking out at the sea from your window when I hold you in the morning
  • You love being sung to
  • You make eye contact with people
  • You don't cry when other people hold you
  • You're growing out of your "snowsuit"
  • You have a firm grip
  • You arch your back and kick your legs when you're excited
  • You reach for me when I come by Cindy's to pick you up
  • You're getting too big for your bathtub
February 4, 1984
It's been raining solid for two weeks now and people are starting to complain of "cabin fever." We get about a storm a day, it seems, but very little snow so far. Looks like the cross country skis will have to wait another year. I've been frantically packing for my trip to Anchorage, trying to get an annual report written. Being a working, single mother has been trying this week. But you're the most significant thing, you come first. When I put you down for your nap this morning, I felt a great sadness, realizing how much I'll miss you next week. It will be so bizarre being away from you. I know you'll REALLY be crawling when I return. (You are now, a little). Play times in the morning are a real treat. I love to watch you play with your toys, love it when yo look up and smile at me.
You're still sleeping so I'll take a quick walk outside for a breath of fresh air.
February 24, 1984
In spite of all this pain, I know what I have to be grateful for -- you, a job that I'm doing my best at, a home that I'm trying to make a good place for us to enjoy.
March 14, 1984
The moon was full tonight and the air was cold, so I stepped outside to breathe in the night. The water was so calm, looking and sounding more like a lake, rather than the sea. You could barely hear the sound of the waves lapping against the rocks. Sometimes when I look at the ocean, and the islands beyond, I think of the happier times I had with your father, especially the kayaking we used to do. He knows a lot about nature, the moon, the tides, the stars. Maybe you'll have a chance to talk with him about these things.
Your motor development amazes me. You were crawling at five and a half months. You steer yourself around so well, it's almost as though you had antennae. The other night when I went into your room to check on you as you were crying, you were standing, supporting yourself on the crib railing. You figure all these things out by yourself, with no help from me. All I have to offer are smiles and hugs, and kisses. I think you'll be walking by the time you're nine months old. You are certainly an interesting little person. I love hearing you laugh. You laugh when I tickle you and make faces at you. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the love I feel for you.
I'm already saving up for piano lessons -- God gave you beautiful hands, with incredible extension. Since you were a tiny, tiny baby, your hands have been expressive. At six and a half months, you respond to your name. You love exploring.
March 17, 1984
I understand that you were quite a hit at Mike and Kathy's last night. They baby-sat while Mom went out to dinner (the first time I've been out without you for a long time). Those crab enchiladas were wonderful! It was a dinner I won't soon forget! At the moment, it's about 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning and you're playing on the floor, having had breakfast. I'm glad you're starting to show more interest in your toys than in my plants and tapes. You're delightful to watch. You're turning into quite an athlete at 6 and a half months and have become an expert crawler. Yesterday at Cindy's, you crawled over to me and pulled yourself up to a standing position using my arms as supports. You just figured out how to take all your toys out of the toy box. And you always turn and smile and look over your shoulder when I call your name. What a smart little guy you are!
March 18, 1984
Little one, may the Lord bless you and keep you in the palm of his hands always, and may he smile upon you.
March 22, 1984
Christopher, sometimes I think that in you, I know what it is to truly love. It is the first time I have ever felt this way. I loved your father once, but the happiness I knew with him is gradually fading. Perhaps you'll have a new daddy someday, someone who will love you as much as I do. You must never think that you were in anyway responsible for the break-up of your father and me. It is really a shame that he is missing out on the joy and delightful moments that you at six and a half months are bringing. I know that in his own way, your father loves you. I sometimes feel incredulous at what a beautiful baby you are. In fact, you're the prettiest baby I've ever seen, and that's not just a proud mother speaking. I hope that someday you'll be proud of me too.
Your motor skills still continue to amaze me. You're way ahead of other babies, who at 4 months are just starting to roll over. Here's a chronology of what's happened so far...you first turned your head at 5 hours of age. You did this when I called out to you, prior to your trip to Anchorage via airlift. (Did you know that you gave us all quite a scare after you were born. You weren't breathing correctly and turned blue. The cord was wrapped around your neck. The doctors in Sitka labored over you for several hours prior to making the decision to airlift you to Anchorage to Providence Hospital. You had improved immensely by the time the medical team got here -- they just wanted to be on the safe side, and sent you to Anchorage anyway. You were in intensive care for 2 days, then you were home-free. Dr. Hunter, the Sitka doctor who delivered you, said that the cause of the breathing difficulties isn't really known. In any case, you've been fine, except for a few colds. I still get a little anxious when I hear you cough. One thing you proved right after you were born is that you are strong and have a lust for life. May you always be this way.
Sitka will always hold a mystique for me. It is certainly a place that you will want to come back to. I have a kind of ritual in that everyday. I hold you before our living room window which looks out onto the sea. Sometimes, when it's sunny, we pause for a while on the path near our house, and I watch with delight as you observe your surroundings. There is a certain spirituality in this place. I think that God can be heard in the wind and be seen through the power of the sea and tides.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Christmas, 1983

Nearing our first Christmas!
What a beautiful day it was today. After getting out my invitations for Open House, I dropped you off at Jill's and had a delightful time Christmas shopping. On my way to the library to take in some refreshments, I looked up and saw a full moon hovering over the mountains. It wasn't yet dark and the sky was dark blue. What a sight! I was stunned. There are many times when one is struck by the beauty of this place. You don't have to go far to find it. When I picked you up at Jill's I was invited to dinner. It turned out to be a feast prepared by some friends of theirs. You were really a hit and got passed around quite a bit. The Lunas' German exchange student took care of you for a while. You enjoyed the many faces and all the activity. You're such a good baby! How lucky I am! You're going to be fun in the years to come. A package arrived in the mail today. In it were some dolls that your cousin Nick sent "with all his love."

Tonight after you woke up crying, I placed you in my arms so you could see the full moon outside your window. We admired it for quite a long time together. The boat parade tonight was beautiful.

My divorce will soon be final and I hope my bitterness can transform itself into something positive by planning for our open house, fixing up your room, reading, and inviting friends over. You are my reason for the season.

Clear beautiful sunny cold days.
Nearing Christmas, our first!
The boats made a spectacular
sight tonight,
All lined up
Just for us!

We saw bald eagles twice last week!

December 28, 1983

We had our first Christmas together a few days ago, on the island where I met your father. Memories of a happy time...

The days continue to be crisp, clear, and lovely. The other day, while you slept,
I watched the sunset over the water.
I was waiting for our guess to arrive.
What a joy to have friends over! The house came alive with laughter and good conversation.
The tree looks lovely, as does the entire house. Another Alaska print would make it complete. I like this place! Some packages arrived yesterday from your great aunt and uncle Wodaski and great grandmother Zukoski. Also from your grandparents. I can't wait for you to meet the rest of your family. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. You're sure to be quite a hit.

The divorce becomes final tomorrow. I'm willing to do what's necessary to help you have a positive relationship with your dad. He loves you and wants to spend time with you. I looked down at you as you were sleeping just now, precious baby. The family is just you and me now. We'll have to help each other. I can be strong for you.

Chris' Notes December 17, 1983

It's been a long day. You've been fussy.
Seems like everything I've tried to quite you isn't working. I'm so tired, and you must be too, little one. You didn't have your nap today. As a last resort, I'm letting you cry yourself to sleep. Why are you so restless? You're well fed and clean. I know that in order to meet your needs, I must first meet my own. How I long for sleep. You're still crying as I write this. Does that diaper need changing? Sleep is beckoning.

Chris' Poem: November 19, 1983

As I was rocking you in your room tonight, little one,
I looked down at you
And then up
And then up
And saw a clear starry night and
A full moon
And I had the feeling that the
Whole universe was nodding in approval.

What I want for you...
Is that you maintain your sweet disposition.
That in being loved, you will love.
That you be kind, generous, and considerate.
I will let you choose your own path.
You will always be accepted by me, into our home.
How amazing that one so small has so much to give.
Your smile lights up my day, my life.
May you enter the world with self confidence
And hope and peace in your heart.
How glad I am that you chose me to be your mother.

I bounced you on my knee and sang to you
And you laughed with glee. What fun you are, little one!
The sun is shining brightly on this beautiful winter day.
While you napped, I took a walk by the sea,
And watched the waves lapping
Gently against the shore.
The mountains are snow-capped now.
I thought back to the many walks we took
Together before we were born.
I think of the fun we'll have as you grow older,
Walking and talking together.
May you grow to love and appreciate this place, my son.

When I was carrying you,
I often heard something within me saying,
"Be strong!"
I still hear that voice.
It was as if God was telling me to
Have faith, that all would be well.
That there was an important reason for me to hold on,
And you were the reason.

What a handsome boy you are.
Long lashes, long sensitive fingers.

Carlsbad, California: November 2, 1983

A new beginning
Christopher sleeping
Warm California sun enveloping me
(That old familiar feeling, the joy of just being)
Joni Mitchell playing on the radio,
Nancy explaining the mechanics of a game to Isiah...
The healing is starting...
I am reveling in the sand and surf,
And admiring the California blue of the sea.
Sweet smells and sounds, so endearing...
So glad to be here...

Friday, March 2, 2012

"A Grateful Heart"

A Scottish Poem

"You've given me so much, so please Lord give me too
A heart that is always Grateful to you."

"May Your Past be a Pleasant Memory"

A Scottish Poem

"May your past be a pleasant memory,
Your future filled with delight and mystery,
Your now a glorious moment,
That fills your life with deep contentment.

May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you."

"Give Me a Few Friends"

A Scottish Poem

"Dear Lord,
Give me a few friends
who will love me for what I am,
and keep ever burning
before my vagrant steps
the kindly light of hope...
And though I come not within sight
of the castle of my dreams,
teach me to be thankful for life,
and for time's olden memories
that are good and sweet.
And may the evening's twilight
find me gentle still."

"I Saw a Familiar Stranger Today"

A Scottish Poem

"I saw a stranger today.

I put food for him
in the eating-place
And drink
in the drinking-place
And music
in the listening-place.

In the Holy name
of the Trinity
He blessed myself
and my family.
And the lark said in her warble
Often, often, often
Goes Christ
in the stranger's guise.

O, oft and oft and oft,
Goes Christ
in the stranger's guise."


Celtic Rune of Hospitality

"I Rise Today"

A Scottish Poem

"I arise today
Through a mighty strength:
God's power to guide me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's eyes to watch over me;
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to give me speech,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,co
God's shield to shelter me,
God's host to secure me."

first millenium - Bridgid of Gael

"God to Enfold Me"

A Scottish Poem


"God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.
God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.
God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.
God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity."
Ancient celtic oral traditions - Carmina Gadelica

"May the Blessing of Light be Upon You"


"May the blessing of light be on you - light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it.
And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the rain be on you,
may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
And may the blessing of the earth be on you,
soft under your feet as you pass along the roads,
soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.
May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly; up and off and on its way to God.
And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly. Amen."

Dr. Milton Quigless

(I recently published a book review in the Daily Southerner on "Looking Back," the autobiography of Dr. Milton Quigless. Here's a snippet.)


Dr. Milton Quigless was once said to have “birthed half the babies in town.” Once of the first black doctors in eastern North Carolina, he built his own hospital in Tarboro, which still stands as a museum.
Dr. Quigless’ daughter, Helen, Jr., became one of my best friends after I moved to Tarboro in 1996. It was Helen who convinced her father to tape record his recollections of his life. She supplied the tapes, and he supplied the memories.
Helen, Jr. was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. She had been a librarian, like me, and we hared many a pleasant hour, talking about books and art. Helen’s disabilities (a debilitating form of rhumatoid arthritis which eventually robbed her of her sight), did not stand in the way of her desire to provide programs for the public good, like a summer arts camp for children. How well I remember her skills with raising funds and coming up with ideas for projects, one of which was her father’s autobiography. It took him 10 years to record it.
After Helen, Jr. died, her sister Carol moved back to Tarboro from L. A., where she had been living for 25 years. Carol helped to see the book through to completion. She was aided in this huge project by Michele Cruz who edited, designed, and published the book.
Dr. Quigless’ razor sharp memory comes shining through in this book. Reflecting on his days as a medical student at Meherry Medical School in Nashville, Dr. Quigless writes: “The Depression was on us about 1930-32, and times were rather hard.”

Helen Gordon Quigless

I came across this article on Helen Gordon Quigless, my dear friend, in Encyclopedia.com. DS

Helen Gordon Quigless

1944-2004

Poet, librarian, community leader

Known as an energetic, imaginative individual, Helen Quigless's passion for writing poetry was equalled by her dedication to community projects, including the Partners in Art program, which provides guidance in the arts for disadvantaged children. She was a respected community leader in her home town of Tarboro, North Carolina, where her involvement in the Phoenix Historical Society of Edgecombe County helped develop the town as a major historical site. In her professional life as a librarian Quigless was no less driven. Despite struggling with rheumatoid arthritis and progressive blindness she was responsible for developing the library holdings at the University of the District of Columbia from its inception in 1974. Quigless is most widely known as a poet; her work appeared in several prestigious anthologies, including Black Southern Voices (1968) and Today's Negro Voices (1970).

Helen Gordon Quigless was born in Washington, D.C., on July 16, 1944, the daughter of Milton D. Quigless and Helen McAlpine Gordon Quigless. Quigless grew up with her brother Milton and her sister Carol in Tarboro, North Carolina. Her father was a noted physician and general surgeon; he was one of the first black doctors in Edgecombe County. In 1946 he opened a clinic on Main Street, in Tarboro, to provide medical care for blacks who were prevented from seeking treatment at "white" health centers and hospitals; he died in 1997. Her father's position in the community may well have inspired Quigless in her own community work. She attended Putney School in Putney, Vermont, before earning a bachelor's degree in English at Fisk University (1966); in 1969 she was awarded a master's degree in library and information science at Atlanta University. From the age of 19, she suffered with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful illness that left her blind and bedridden in the final months of her life.

Quigless began working at Federal City College, later to become part of the District of Columbia University, in 1968 and remained there until illness forced her retirement. She began as a media specialist, but was eventually responsible for developing the library and information holdings at the university. Despite her time-consuming and demanding job, Quigless also found time to write poetry. She was linked with the Black Arts Movement, a group of black writers, musicians, poets, and artists whose work provided cultural and intellectual weight to the civil rights movement. In 1967 her poetry appeared in For Malcolm, an anthology to commemorate civil rights leader Malcolm X, and for the next few years she could be listed alongside Marvin X, Etheridge Knight, and Gwendolyn Brooks, as one of those who provided a poetic voice for the black community. She published poems in two other anthologies, The New Black Poetry (1968), and Today's Negro Voices (1970), as well as the 1970 edition of New Negro Poets.

Quigless was well known as a poet for a relatively short period, but the direct approach she took in her poetry also made her a dedicated community leader in her home town of Tarboro. Struggling with illness, Quigless nevertheless worked hard on community projects, using her connections in the literary and art worlds in fundraising and publicity. She founded Partners in Art, an award for middle and high school students in Edgecombe County. The annual award, funded by a coalition of local businesses, is presented each spring. It provides access to art materials, and professional tuition, as well as allowing students to display their work for the public. Meade Horne, former executive director of Edgecombe ARTS, who worked with Quigless on the Partners in Art program, told The Daily Southerner that "She had a great spirit and great determination. I never met someone more determined in my life." Besides her involvement with Edgecombe County Cultural Arts Council, Quigless was also a leading light in Edgecombe County NAACP, and the American Association of University Women. She served as president of the Phoenix Historical Society of Edgecombe County, using her position to promote genealogical research in and around Tarboro, one of the United States' oldest towns. She was also influential in the development of Tarboro's historic district, which is one of the largest in the South-Eastern United States.

Quigless's life was overshadowed by the illness that finally took her life at the age of 59. Yet her dynamic personality, determination, and creativity brought her influence that went far beyond the small town where she was raised; as a poet she was part of a literary movement that helped define American literature in the late twentieth century. Yet it was for the culture, history, and the people of Tarboro that Quigless reserved her greatest dedication and effort. Sister Mary Ann Czaja told The Daily Southerner "Her creativity was the gift she gave to society."

Selected works

Poetry

Helen Gordon Quigless' poetry has been published in anthologies, including For Malcolm: Poems on the Life and Death of Malcolm X, Broadside Press, 1967; The New Black Poetry, International Publishers, 1968; Today's Negro Voices: An Anthology by Young Negro Poets, Messner, 1970; New Negro Poets (1970).

At a Glance

Born Helen Gordon Quigless on July 16, 1944, in Washington, DC; died on January 17, 2004. Education: Fisk University, BA, English, 1966; Atlanta University, MS, library and information science, 1969. Religion: Episcopalian.

Career: Poet, 1967-2004; Federal City College (now University of the District of Columbia), Washington, DC, media specialist and librarian, 1968-(?).

Memberships: Edgecombe County Cultural Arts Council; Edgecombe County NAACP; American Association of University Women; president of Phoenix Historical Society of Edgecombe County.

Sources

Periodicals

Jet, February 23, 2004.

On-line

"County at a Loss for Words," The Daily Southerner, http://dailysoutherner.com/articles/2004/01/20/news/news3.txt (November 22, 2004).

"Helen Gordon Quigless," Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (November 18, 2004).

Chris Routledge

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bea Burnett: "I've Had a Good Life"

[note: I just finished this article for the regional magazine, Eastern North Carolina Woman, about my friend Bea Burnett] -->
Eastern North Carolina Woman
Dana Stone
“I’ve Had a Good Life”
(cover introductory text) Bea Burnett of Tarboro, North Carolina dominates the senior women’s tennis circuit, but she goes much deeper than tennis.
(cover photo: black and white promotional shot, head and shoulders)
Photo caption: Bea Burnett, around the age of 28
Bea greeted her friend at the first ring of the doorbell, her periwinkle blue eyes shining. Holding the door wide open, she gestured me toward the enormous antique buffet gracing her foyer, and to the two small boxes in front of it. “Photographs, yes we will have photographs!”
In preparation for her interview, Bea had begun the process of hauling out photographs from her long career. She would later detail the memories and people recorded therein. There were more photographs on shelves inside the buffet, framed family heirlooms.
“This buffet was the first piece Dick and I bought together,” Bea offered, referring to Dick Burnett, her husband of 33 years. “The dishes in it were from the drug store that used to be downtown. They had the ‘blue plate special’ every day for lunch.”
Bea led the way to her kitchen, where lunch was laid out. It was a sumptuous spread of jumbo shrimp, acorn squash with pesto, fresh avocado slices with crabmeat salad, pine nut hummus, rice crackers, roasted garlic blossoms, pecans, and cabbage/pasta salad.
“These are like candy,” Bea said, gesturing toward the garlic blossoms. “And the cabbage/pasta salad is featured in the Episcopal Church Cookbook.”
Her friend sampled a garlic blossom, shouting, “Hallalujah,” at which time Bea chimed in for a rousing duet of Handal’s most famous chorus. As we sat down to eat, Bea reflected on the recipes, looking up and gesturing while she sampled a taste of this and a taste of that, exclaiming, “cooking just makes me so happy.”
“Oh, look at the cardinal in the dogwood tree!” That is just so North Carolina!” We paused to admire a cardinal feasting on a hanging bird feeder in her neighbor’s yard. Bea Burnett is clearly a nature lover, having grown up on a farm in Edgecombe County. “We had cotton, corn, peanuts, tobacco, and soybeans. It was always such a relief when we got the soybean crop, because soybeans didn’t have to be harvested. They just grew. Of course, everything had to be picked by hand.”
With ten brothers and sisters, there was plenty of help on her parent’s farm. “I’m the fifth from the top, with seven brothers and three sisters. I couldn’t wait to leave Tarboro, and went to ECU when it was still called ECTC (Eastern Carolina Teacher’s College). I decided on ECU because one of my aunts, whom I admired tremendously, had gone there. I got a scholarship, and didn’t play any sports back then. Growing up, I always had to go home and help on the farm, and couldn’t stay after school.”
On an academic scholarship, Bea’s plan was to attend ECU and eventually to teach school until she saved up enough money to open up a nursery. “I got a scholarship from Johnny Wolfe. I tried out for cheerleading, but didn’t get it.” Bea’s disappointment was short-lived – “I got over it!”
Such resilience would reap huge benefits later in life when Bea became an actress. She could cope better with the rejection and disappointment that came with trying out for audition after audition. She smiled as she recalled her first audition at the age of five when she was in the first grade. “I played the wolf in the ‘The 3 Little Pigs.’
After attending ECU for a year, Bea opted to live in a different city and chose Chicago because “Aunt Margie lived there.” Chicagoans were intrigued with the young woman’s “hick” accent. “They all wanted to hear my Southern accent, and when they asked me where I lived, I responded, ‘why, I live with cuddin Margie and cuddin Woody.’ That was how I talked back then.”
Fast forward to the age of 19 and her time in Chicago. In Chicago, Bea embarked on a course of study at Northwestern University where she took business and acting courses. Her svelte figure and soft Southern accent eventually landed her lots of work. Her acting career included the roles of Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie,” both written by Southern playwright Tennessee Williams. Years later, she would enroll in speech and voice training to help diminish her Southern way of speaking, and to help launch her singing talents. She carries those singing talents with her today as she sings in the Calvary Episcopal Church Choir in her hometown of Tarboro, North Carolina.
“Chicago was where I had my first trade show, with Chicago being the trade show capital of the United States. I was Miss National Hot Dog in fifteen cities. For Mercedes Benz, I was their spokeswoman at the auto shows in five cities for nine years.” She also represented Bayer Aspirin for five years.
Commenting on her Madison Avenue days, Bea concluded: “I did over 50 TV commercials; right face at the right place at the right time. I still get residuals on some of the soap operas I was on.” She even appeared in several films, and a few soap operas.
Bea, now 75, still has model good-looks, and has aged gracefully and beautifully. As a child, she admits that she was an introvert. Middle children are sometimes starved for attention, especially in large families where they have younger siblings to look after. Bea admits that she got the attention she craved on the stage.
Being gorgeous didn’t hurt, as Bea Burnett radiates an inner light that must have delighted photographers. She bonds with the camera, and seems to instinctively know how to strike a pose that is relaxed and natural.
A Star on the Tennis Court: Bea recalled her first time playing tennis. “I was 17 at ECTC (East Carolina University), on a scholarship. Edith Rogers, a friend who lived across the hall from me at Cotton Hall, asked me to play. I hesitated, and she said, ‘I have an extra racquet.’ We played. I won. I was hooked.”
Bea’s exploits on the tennis circuit seem legendary. Currently, she holds the World Title for the Senior World Individual Championship in the 75 year old division. For this honor, she won the Queen’s Cup competition last fall in Antalya, Turkey. During the event, Bea teamed with Dorothy Mathiessen of Pasadena, California, and Carol Wood of Rockville, Maryland in the 75 year old division. She also took silver medals in the individual 75 and over singles and doubles competitions. According to a press release from the United States Tennis Association, the Queen’s Cup team “came through on top without losing a set, although they faced their toughest competition in the team from France.” For the Queen’s Cup competition, Bea doubled her medal count from 2010.
Recalling her win in Turkey, Bea recalled the location of the match, in Altalya, Turkey, saying, “it’s a paradise on the Mediterranean.” She also elaborated how her sister, Rosemary, was ill with lung cancer at the time. “Rosemary was in my thoughts. Each match that I played and won, I dedicated it to Rosemary. She was a year and a half younger than me.”
Special note from the USTA: “The United States Tennis Association is the national governing body for tennis in the U. S., and the leader is promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level – from local communities to the highest level of the professional game. A not-for-profit organization with more than 750,000 members, it invests 100% of its proceeds in growing the game. It owns and operates the US Open, the highest attended annual sporting event in the world.”
Looking back over the last few years, here is a run-down of tennis highlights from Bea’s life. In 2010, she participated in the USTA Grass Court Championships, Westside Tennis Club at Forest Hills. In 2008, she won the Women’s 70 Singles Tournament at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. In 2007, she played in the 27th ITF Super Seniors World Individual Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand. And finally, and closer to home, she won the Brooklyn Heights, New York women’s tennis singles for 14 consecutive years, 17 in all.
Philanthropy: Bea Burnett is much more than tennis. She recalled her Civil Rights activities during the 1960’s. “I was an early member of the NAACP and helped integrate bowling alleys, restaurants and movie theaters in different parts of the country.” She belonged to the American Tennis Association where she was the “token white member.”
She explained: “the ATA was formed when Ralph Bunch’s son was not allowed to play in the USTA, which at the time was for whites.” When I lived in Bermuda, I also taught tennis to the underprivileged on the Governor's court.”
Additional volunteer activities included being a reader for Recording for the Blind for 5 years. On her work with Recording for the Blind, she commented that “the most important and difficult project for me was recording a guitar book for the blind. I was on the Board for Meals on Heels for 10 years and delivered meals to the elderly (on heels, not wheels)!”
Bea sings at Calvary Episcopal Church and serves as a hospice volunteer where “I visit and sing with the patients.”
Bea’s many memberships include being life members of the NSWTA, the USTA, the Actors Fund, Transportation Alternatives, the League of American Bicyclists, and Road Runners.
Additionally, she is very active in the NSWTA (National Senior Women’s Tennis Association). She elaborated: “One of my passions for NSWTA is, whenever I travel to play in a tennis tournament, is to solicit new members for our organization. Another is to write articles for my age group for the NSWTA magazine.”
A Passion for Health and Fitness: She would like to live to the age of 125. She elaborated, “when I was a little girl, I asked my daddy how long he wanted to live. He said, ‘oh, I want to live to be about 65.’ And I said, ‘oh, Daddy, that is so old!’ Well, he died when he turned 65. Me? I want to live to be 125.”
To help her toward this goal, Bea practices a vegetarian lifestyle. “I don't eat things that crawl or fly. Sometimes, I eat things that swim. I eat lots of vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and fruit. Genes have a lot to do with it; and I was born lucky -- on a farm, growing our own vegetables, etc. I watch what I eat: breakfast like a queen, lunch like a princess and dinner like a beggar. I exercise regularly, take vitamins, and get fresh air and sunshine, frequently. I have had a good life. There is something wonderful about every decade.”
She paused to comment on Tarboro, her hometown to which she returned nine years ago. Reflecting on the newcomers to the area, she wondered out loud if “Tarboro is replacing Ft. Lauderdale.” We agreed that the town should be promoted to gay people, concluding that “this might save it.”
At the conclusion of the interview, Bea Burnett took her guest on a tour of her home. She and her husband Dick live in Mary Howard’s house, who was a Red Cross volunteer during World War II. (You can read Mary’s memoir at the Veteran’s Museum in downtown Tarboro).
The home was re-modeled by Dick and Bea, with help from Bea’s sister, Arona. We started at the foyer, which was added on during the renovation. As Bea explained, “we had to knock down a brick wall in order to open up the space.”
Continuing to the living room, Bea pointed out the brick fireplace, “which is original.”
As we moved over to the antique buffet, Bea looked down at boxes of old photographs. As she looked through them, she reflected on her travels, and picked out a photograph taken in Spain. She explained, “I went to Spain one summer to work on my game. This was around 1972. I had an apartment on Costa del Sol, overlooking the Mediterranean, a penthouse with two bedrooms, and two baths. It was about $15.00 a month, with maid service. I took my best friend with me.”
She gestured toward a black and white photo taken at the El Jaleco nightclub. “One night we went there, and you can see my friend in the sexy black dress.”
This was clearly a nostalgic memory for Bea, as she reflected on her many travels, which also included two visits to Japan and a trip to Russia. Her favorite country? “The United States of America!”
Bea Burnett has come home to Tarboro, where she continues to live life to the fullest, with a commitment to keeping fit, inspiring others, and involvement in community activities. She ended the interview with an invitation to join her on a bike ride. So typical of Bea Burnett, and her giving spirit.
Photos:
1. Buffet gracing the foyer of Bea Burnett’s home.
2. A ‘blue plate special’ dish, one of many from an old Tarboro drug store

Serenity at 6 a.m

It is snowing in Boston
And I'm standing on my front porch
Breathing in the morning calm.
To my right, there's a giant oak tree.
To my left, a towering pine.
The wind chime tones an ancient melody,
All is well, all is well.

The birds are awake, and singing
Their morning song.
What a pleasure to observe these things,
As life goes on.