2015

Don Beaver's wake

October 2015

In September 2015 long-time friend & coworker, Don Beaver passed on after a lengthy hospital stay. Don had had a heart attack the previous year and quickly fell into a coma, from which he didn't recover.


Thoughtful coworkers arranged a wake at the bar owned by another of our colleagues. I was one of the friends asked to give a eulogy.

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Don Beaver Eulogy


I want to thank everyone for coming to Don Beaver's wake today. Some of you have come from far away. Maybe some of you are like me, and had to cancel an important event to be here. Today my daughter's Jr. HS tea ceremony club is holding their first open event. She wanted her father to be there. I had to explain that I had a responsibility to a fallen friend. My daughter's no stranger to death. She witnessed her great grandfather's wake & cremation, as well as my mother's wake. She understands the importance and duty of being here. The first impression I have of Don Beaver was from before I met him. I would sometimes hear his name from various Kinki University coworkers. I would hear of a person who sometimes seemed larger than life, not only teaching many koma, but working weddings, and even as a DJ. He was a nice guy they'd say, full of energy, but I was told he also had a dark side.


When I first met Don face-to-face it was a sudden chance occurrence on the campus. Immediately I felt the energy he emitted. His smile & those friendly engaging questions he asked completely disarmed me. What a dynamic personality.


My favorite memories of Don are going out for dinner & drinks after work. Another of our good friends, Pat Polen would be there too. I loved listening to Don reminisce about the old days of his partying and DJing. He would come to life. He'd have a sparkle in his eye and a big smile on his face. He would show us old photos of those days. Back then he was a really good looking guy too, a famous partier, and quite a ladies man.


Other good memories include Don's self-deprecating humor. Don could take a joke, and some of us here, including myself never passed up a chance to have fun with Don. By being a good sport Don would leave all of his friends at ease. He was a regular guy, and we appreciated him for that.


As the years pass I will never forget Don's smile and laughter. My memory of Don is triggered by another thing too. There is an underpass between 2 buildings at Kinki University, on the way to old Bld 11. I often saw Don there deep in conversation with a student or a Japanese staffer. These days when I walk by that underpass I still fully expect to see Don. One day after hours, when no one was around I took a photos of the campus, including one of that underpass. Now whenever I look at that photo it haunts me like a de Chirico painting, with all of its anxiety and anticipation. Where is Don? He was just here.

If Don were standing here right now what would I tell him? I can think of various advice I'd like to tell him. Other friends & coworkers & I have often ruminated about giving Don advice: get more exercise; find a good doctor, someone you can talk to to help you with your demons. Some of us did try to help him; but you know Don: "Ah, Dave," he'd say. "You know that's not my style." So, if Don were here right now, I would simply tell him that I love him.


What I liked most about Don Beaver was his humanity—his honesty about the parts of his life he was willing to talk about. When he did that with his smile, laughter and tears, it was simply impossible not to just like the man. What I take away from my friendship with Don is for as big a nice-guy personality he had, he was also that guarded about various aspects of himself. He would let out certain telling vignettes about his life, but when asked questions, gave evasive answers. You got the impression that he was trying to make deeper connections, but was somehow unable to. He would come out with us, joke with us, but was couldn't completely open up to us.


What I take away from this is how important it is to have someone to talk to—to commiserate with. Many of Don's friends are like me, expatriates in an alien land, blocked by culture and language, and never allowed fully inside even if that was what we desired. The members of this Western English-speaking expatriate community need each other. We are an island, but none of us is an island onto ourselves. If you think that's corny just look around you. How many people have come today. We are not Don Beaver's blood relatives, but part of a web. As Harvard biologist, Edward O. Wilson said about civilizations, "members cooperate and are in competition with each other at the same time." George Orwell showed in his book, Burmese Days what a pressure cooker expatriate life is. We are at times friends, frenemies, rivals, incompatible personalities, or just plain coworkers, but we are all each other has here. So, like Kevin Cleary, David Agnew, Matt Walsh, Joe Wade, and Brian Sullivan I say good-bye to Don Beaver. A piece—a rich clod of Earth—of this expatriate island has suddenly washed back out to sea.


David Stepanczuk

10 Oct. 2015