04/25/48 ~ 09/13/13
“Bev” was born April 25, 1948 into a family of sisters in Riegelsville, Pa. She was a precocious artist even as a child and an all-state field hockey player. Bev chose to attend Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J. and after a lot of hard work graduated with a B.A. in Psychology.
One of Bev’s defining qualities was her insatiable quest for knowledge. She wanted to know about everything, and what she didn’t already know she plunged into the effort to learn it. Her formal work career may have been short, but in 1972, she found her life’s partner, Dr. Bob Akmens who loved her very dearly and encouraged her to expand her horizons and to every day and in every way to “carpe diem,” to “seize the day” and create her own and new discovered opportunities.
In the late 1980s, Bev became the manager of a large thoroughbred & standardbred horse racing & breeding operation she and her husband created. We had one of the fastest trotters of all time, Hot Blooded, who became a stallion for us. But as in all things in her life, one of Bev’s problems was that she loved each of our horses like her children. As she did to the dozens of wonderful cats and dogs we rescued from a dire fate when she nursed them back to health and gave them such quantities of love that you wondered could a human being have more to give.
In the 1990s, Bev attained national prominence by being featured in a venerable publication called Early American Life and being named one of our nation’s 200 best folk artists. Her newfound popularity enabled her to devote much time to resurrecting the lost art of making sailor’s valentines the way that those in the great Age of Sail ending in the 1800s would have made. She had gallery shows, publicity and many sales of her staggeringly beautiful creations which were painstakingly made with small colored shells placed in a wooden sextant box in designs such as hearts and others that long-gone sailors would have brought home to their sweethearts.
By 2003, Bev had been diagnosed with a form of debilitating dementia and no longer had the dexterity to produce her masterworks. So Dr. Bob took over the cooking chores from one of the best cooks he’s ever seen.
Bev had always wanted to live in sunny Florida and by mid-2011 that goal came to fruition. When she came down there were lots of smiles and approving nods from her as she sat in her wheelchair. Bev was so attached to her houseplants that we got a special truck to bring them down. The very first day she was here, a big hibiscus plant that would give us joy blooming under light in the frigid North, opened a half-dozen new blooms for Bev. She was here 3 weeks when a terrible accident in her bed put her on life support and Bev was away from her new home for 4 months. When she finally came home, her husband, Dr. Bob had to face continual setbacks such as infection & pneumonia and for the next 12 months, Bev was hospitalized in the local ICU 10 times.
Shortly thereafter, with the help of a caring home health nurse, we approached Bev’s care differently. We would do everything possible to keep her home, with her caring husband, Dr. Bob and her dog, Andy and her cat, Cutie. Dr. Bob created long checklists of all the things needed to be done for Bev each day. And at the top of each day’s list he wrote how many days Bev had stayed out of the hospital. And he was so proud to point that number out to anyone who listened. On the last day, that number was 339 and we were all shooting for a full year home.
It was not to be. Bev had a trip to a doctor’s appointment, acted just fine when it was time to move her from her wheelchair to her special bed. Dr. Bob suctioned her trach and she seemed relieved. Then he turned her on her side to clean her up. And 5 minutes later Bev was gone. Her wonderful, kind, generous, caring heart had stopped. And it was not meant to be that she should see another day.
So wherever your immortal soul has gone, Bev, know that I will love you until the last grain of sand is washed away from the last beach on earth.
You gave me joy and you gave me hope and you have loved me and I can never repay those kindnesses. May there be something beyond this harsh pale ... and may we meet there again.
Arrangements are by Ponger-Kays-Grady Funeral Home, Arcadia, Fla.