John Monroe Bean
1866 - 1954
I never knew the man. He was gone a few years short of my birth, so the chance to even meet him, much less know him was never mine.
Yet, within me lies a knowledge of the man. His genuine love for his children. All fifteen of them. And yes, all three of his wives.
For many years now I have made a study of the man. His oddities. And his quirks. His kindness. And his anger [which I feel was seldom ever seen!]. He was in fact, a gentle man. And a gentleman.
Born just 20 months after the end of the Civil War, his family moved in the dead of winter by oxen pulled wagon when he was but days old. Carried next to the bosom of his mother, within her dress and cloak to keep warm, he teased that his short stature and slight build were stunted by the freezing cold of the move!
Much as I do today, he was a scholar of his family’s history. He knew more about them than I could ever learn by following paper trail. And he kept it all in his head.
I look at his photograph, and see my own father, who has an uncanny resemblance. Although his hair isn’t quite as white as Grandpa’s. And like his father, my father carries on the oral tradition of family lore. Like them I tell the stories, but in my own way. Recording them on a whirring computer that I hope will be accessible for future generations. And yes, like my father, and even more like my grandfather, my own hair has gone snow white. And I have only reached my 52nd year thusfar. [I began going white-haired at only 35, but kept my hair dyed until 4 years ago.]
He lived to be an old man. 88 years of age. And in that time, he knew heart ache and tragedy.
His grandfather was killed just two years before his birth. Shot in the head while leading the Home Guard on a chase to arrest renegade soldiers who were stealing from the community. January 1, 1864. Then in 1890, his father, namesake to his grandfather, was also killed. Shot in the head, by a zealous constable. His mother dying a short year later. Both in their fifties. Two years later, an older brother died from stomach ulcers at just 39 years of age.
He later lost a wife to tuberculosis, as well as two children to the disease. His second wife died from toxemia, following the birth of her last child. He lost a son to whooping cough. Then he married a third time, and lost yet another son, to appendicitis.
Yes, I know this man. The heart ache. The dreams. The never satisfied desire for success, yet the demand within to keep searching. Keep trying. Keep pushing on. The determination to make it. Not for one’s self. But for family.
It’s taken me many years to come to know this man as intimately as I do. And I consider it a treasure worth much, much more than any monetary amount.
I tease and say that I have put in my order for when I get to heaven. I want to be 5-foot-two, eyes of blue, and have blond hair. And above all….be model thin! [I stand 5-feet-10, have had black hair but it is white now, have brown eyes, and have always been a large size!] But the truth is, when I arrive at heaven, I expect that my Grandpa will be waiting for me. See, we have a lot in common. And so very many questions I have to ask him, the answers which went to the grave with him! And I am sure he will wish to be caught up as well!
If there is a place in heaven for genealogists, and I’m sure there is, after all, genealogies and family trees are spread throughout both the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, then Grandpa and I will be seated at a table and poring over ours!
And I bet you’ve got a family member like that you can’t wait to see one day in the hereafter as well!