A Brentwood resident who sees no reason to slow down now that she is 80 years old is being honored for the full life she leads.
St. Andrew's Resources for Seniors System has announced its honorees for the 10th annual Ageless-Remarkable St. Louisans celebration, and Carolyn Beimdiek is one.
“I did suddenly awaken the other day to realize, hey, I’ve passed my 80th birthday,” Beimdiek said. “It happened while I wasn’t looking, and there was no reason to stop doing things.”
Beimdiek and her husband, Don, 83, get up each day at 6:00 with a half-mile walk, as long as it’s above freezing, then usually don’t see each other until dinnertime.
They met at Washington University, St. Louis, when both were in graduate school. She came from eastern Kentucky, and hadn’t planned on staying in St. Louis, before she met her future husband.
She worked as an occupational therapist at BJC and Missouri Baptist Hospital, but stopped completely to raise their four children. During those years she was a Cub Scout den mother, a Brownie leader and a Girl Scout leader for 14 years.
She went back to work part time when their children were grown, but retired early when she said her work wasn’t meaningful to her. She began to look for ways to volunteer.
She began volunteering
Beimdiek began teaching adults to read, but became discouraged when she realized that an adult non-reader has “more or less leaned to negotiate the system even though you can’t read, you learn how to fake it.” She said they weren’t committed to the time and discipline it takes to learn to read.
For the past 18 years she’s been involved with a tutoring program at her church, Central Presbyterian in the Central West End.
“We have 18 volunteers who go into the school (Washington Montessori) in the city and we work with children the teachers have selected to be most at risk,” she said.
She recently took two classes to Shaw Nature preserve to show them what a prairie is about. “They need to see there’s more to the world than what they see on the bus going to their classroom,” she said.
She also volunteers with Springboard, a program that teaches African dance and drumming, cultures from other countries, science experience experiments, play writing, puppet making. She said arts are not the icing on the cake.
“To me it’s essential,” she said. “If you don’t have any of the arts, and you go to school simply to learn the multiplication tables and how to decode words, you have not gotten an education.”
Third, in terms of time, is her work on the Brentwood library board, she said.
“A public library is an absolute essential for a community,” she said. “I am a reader. I always have a book on my bed table from the Brentwood public library.”
She said her interest in education comes from the fact that she is the offspring of educators. Her father was a high school principal, and instilled in her the fact that education is paramount, she said.
Bicycling in Europe
In addition to Beimdiek and her husband’s daily walk, they’re also bicyclists. They left on Oct. 5 for their ninth multi-day bicycling trip. Eight of those trips have been in Europe. This one is in Italy.
“This will be our last trip. The last three have been our last trip,” she said. “Each time we say we’re really getting too old to do this, but we need to take this one, and then another one comes up. Maybe this one really is.”
Beimdiek heard a sermon in her church that said defines the way she lives.“The most important item on a tombstone is the hyphen between the date of birth and the date of death,” she said. She said we have little or no control over those two numbers, “but you have a lot of control over that hyphen in between.”