Jul 24, 2012, 7:24 PM
Post #1 of 10
Kelly Poe Beazer
I'm adding this here to try and reach all the skydivers who knew Kelly Poe Beazer, a jumper in the Houston and Bryan areas of Texas. This forum did not yet exist at the time she passed away. But it's never too late to honor our old friends.
The Kelly Poe Beazer Memorial Bench
First, a little history of where we've been.
Kelly Poe Beazer was a beautiful, smart and talented young lady skydiver, who was a joy to spend time with in the sport. She started jumping in Bryan at the Aggies Over Texas parachute center, and often visited Skydive Houston in Waller. Kelly passed away in 1995, after a tragic hard landing in a parachute accident and a week in the hospital.
After that incident, skydivers rallied together to contribute money to a college fund for her then 7-year-old son, Marcus. Kelly had just married fellow skydiver John Beazer a short time prior to this event. To memorialize her at the Skydive Houston parachute center in Waller, Texas, a concrete bench was purchased and a bronze plaque affixed, with a quote from Kelly: "Skydiving: a builder of confidence and self-esteem. Kelly Poe Beazer, D-15290". The D-number is her expert parachutist license number, which means she was the 15,290th person in the U.S. to achieve that status.
That bench was situated to overlook the parachute landing area, and was used by thousands of people over the years, both skydivers and spectators, who sat there and enjoyed watching skydivers land. Sometimes skydivers would place flowers there, picked from the landing area and put on the bench as they walked past it back to the packing area.
Over time, the bench began to crumble, with the interlocking tabs that hold the pieces together coming apart. It consisted of six pieces: two legs, a seat, a back rest, and two arm rests. The bench would end up unusable and lying in a pile, neglected. After several management changes, no one seemed to be motivated to fix it. Promises were made but not kept. Fearing the pieces would be thrown out, I finally fixed it by myself one day, using plenty of construction adhesive, and positioning it against a tree, not only for shade, but so that the tree trunk would help support the back piece. This put the bench back into action again.
In 2011 Skydive Houston moved from Waller to Eagle Lake. In a dispute over which property belonged to the skydiving business, and which belonged to the land owner, the bench became a pawn in the battle. I insisted that the bench was the property of the skydivers, as we purchased it, and it was not a fixed asset belonging to the land. The skydiving business owner assured that the bench would move with the drop zone, and it did. It was then "hidden" in plain sight for a year in the town of Eagle Lake, while the property dispute settled down. We didn't want someone to come by the new skydiving location and claim it for themselves. The Kelly bench is the moral property of the skydivers as far as I'm concerned - we paid for it, we built it, and we have memories and emotions tied up in it. It's much more than just a concrete bench.
After a cooling-off period of a year following the relocation, the bench was once again brought out to the airport and positioned to overlook the parachute landing area. The back rest and arm rests would no longer support themselves, but the bench and legs were good. The back rest was propped up against the arm rests out in front of the bench so that Kelly's plaque was visible to anyone sitting there.
Once again, neglect began to set in, and I would often find the back piece and plaque tipped over face down in the dirt.
16-years have now passed since Kelly graced our lives, and most of the skydivers that knew her, are no longer in the sport. They've gotten married, had kids and ceased jumping, moved away to other locations, or just faded away. Very few jumpers remain who were active jumpers in 1995, who are still active in 2012. This lack of personal attachment to Kelly or the significance of the bench has led to it being treated with less respect than I would prefer. But certainly none of those who knew Kelly have forgotten her, no matter where they are or what they do.
The history lesson is now complete and this brings us up to the present day.
Skydive Houston it now seems is closing its doors and will soon cease to exist. The question now is: what to do with Kelly's bench and plaque from here on out. I asked and received permission from the acting drop zone manager to retrieve the bench so that it wouldn't be abandoned, thrown out or lost in a business shutdown. It's now in my temporary protective custody.
There are three possibilities that I've come up with as to what to do with it next. But I want this to be an open discussion, and for anyone with ideas to speak up and contribute. Don't be shy.
To put the bench back in useable condition again, would require purchasing a new back rest and arm rests, and re-affixing the plaque to the new back rest. I don't know how much commonality those fitted joints have with other benches, and if suitable replacement parts can't be found, you might have to purchase a whole new bench. And that brings up the idea that the bench is just a bunch of concrete pieces, and that it's the bronze plaque that really imbues the bench with meaning, and that the plaque is the essential enduring and meaningful component. But it's not the money that is the problem. It's the lack of active skydivers today who knew Kelly back 17 years ago and more. A Kelly memorial bench/plaque sitting amongst a bunch of people who didn't know here, doesn't have the same meaning as one that is amidst her family and friends.
So here are my ideas.
The next most fitting skydiving location would be Skydive Spaceland, south of Houston in Rosharon, Texas. The plaque does have a skydiving theme, after all. That's the current active skydiving center in Houston where experienced skydivers jump. But Kelly had no personal connection with that location, and once again, you would be hard pressed to find skydivers there who knew Kelly. So does that make it a fitting place? I don't know. Then there's the question of whether Spaceland would even want such a memorial there. Although the plaque doesn't reference her accident, it can be implied in the minds of many that see it that this is why the plaque exists. And once you place one memorial, then many others can follow, and that can look bad for business to new customers and spectators to see an array of memorials around the parachute center, from skydivers who have died. So I'm not sure I even want to ask them for the favor, and even if they graciously accepted its presence, would it mean anything to the jumpers there today?
Jan Richards expressed interest years ago in the Kelly bench, if anything ever happened to the drop zone location, promising to give it a good home. She and Jimmy have a beautiful location in their yard with a gazebo overlooking a pond, which would be a wonderful site, and Jan and Jimmy would certainly do it honor.
I'm thinking of forgetting about rebuilding the bench, and instead mounting the plaque in a shadow box type picture frame, open in front so that you can reach in and touch the plaque and feel her name in the raised lettering. And above the plaque inside the box would be a photo of Kelly to go with it. I've the idea that this is the best ending to this story, with the plaque in a place in a loving home where Kelly will always be remembered, and as a reminder that she was also loved by many skydivers. It's a memorial that would be protected inside a home, and highly mobile in any future moves, compared to 300-lbs of concrete. The only question then is, to whom to present this memorial. Kelly's parents? Her husband John? Her son Marcus? I would leave that up to them to decide amongst themselves...
I'm willing to do any of the above, and my personal leanings are towards Option 3. I'll be happy to make any of these things happen, to ensure that Kelly's skydiving memorial lives on where it will be appreciated in her memory.
I'm giving this message wide distribution amongst Kelly's family, friends and skydivers. Feel free to forward it to anyone who is interested or who might have a say in the matter. I'm sure that together we can reach a consensus as to what is best to do.
- John Rich, D-7377
Photos: 1) Kelly's wedding to John Beazer 2) In Aggies Over Texas C-182 3) Greeting brother Brian after his 1st jump 4) The Kelly memorial bench 5) The memorial plaque on the bench
I saw the bench when I got back into skydiving, and asked about Kelly. John, I think your judgment here is excellent. I hope that her son and husband are on good terms, so that they can come to an agreement about what's best.
Beautiful post John. I remember the bench well, rested and watched landings there many times.
I would lean towrds Option 1. I think it is a testament to one of the greatest aspects of skydiving - the amazing people and how much they care for each other and the memories of those lost to the sport. I think its place is by a landing area for jumpers new and old to enjoy, and the message on the plaque is as true now as it was when Kelly saidwrote the words on it.
That said, I think it would be a cherished memorial for either her husband or her son (do you know if he got to college to use the fund set up?).
And here's to you John, for your kind and thoughtful efforts to keep her momory alive and kicking - people like you make the skydiving community special.
Kelly's husband, John Beazer, has moved on with his life - he has since re-married and now has a family of his own. Kelly's son Marcus is now 25 years old and is studying music at the Art Institute of Houston.
You're a good man. I realize you know that the best tribute is that you care and remember. We should all hope for a friend like you. I vote #3. If you go that way, her son may wish to carry out #1 or 2.
I surveyed skydivers by e-mail, Facebook and Dropzone.com to get opinions on where the most appropriate place of residence would be for the Kelly Poe memorial bench, now that Skydive Houston is closed. The overwhelming response was that it is time to turn it over to her family.
Brian Poe, Kelly's brother, offered it a good home, and I have turned it over to him today. It's in a beautiful spot in the shade in his back yard, overlooking the pool. Brian made 146 jumps himself, mostly at Aggies Over Texas, and he has since gone on to earn a private pilot's license.
Brian will ensure that this memory of Kelly lives on, and at some point in the future, it can turned over to Kelly's son, Marcus. A photo is attached, showing myself and Brian sitting on the bench in its new resting place, with me handing over the bronze plaque to Brian.
Thank you everyone for your support, opinions and ideas.