I don’t know if I could honestly call Bea Reid a friend, even though I would have liked to. We were friendly acquaintances, who came to know each other over the years because our jobs as a reporter and top Sheriff’s Office finance officer intersected. More recently, we worked together on the scholarship committee and other functions for our Lakeland Kiwanis Club.
I don’t know her family and have no insight into the madness that took her life.
But I know that Bea and I gravitated toward the same type of kids when considering scholarship winners: kids with extensive work histories (as opposed to volunteer records), kids whose SATs may have come in a point or two low, but whose class load and grades reflected their effort. I know how terribly stressed both of us got on the day of the event, fretting about when each kid showed up, or the musical entertainment, and just making sure the program came off correctly.
Bea was one of the people who do the work in our society. Whatever she was doing, she wanted it to succeed, not just to be seen to succeed. She suffered to make it happen. I admire people like that.
One reason I’m not quite as hard as you might think on the larger than life persona Grady Judd has created for himself is that he also has surrounded himself with people who don’t believe the hype. Or at least don’t indulge it. For the most part, those people do their jobs seriously, competently, and without much drama. In my experience, Bea was one of them. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve met many people less consumed by drama, at least in the settings where I knew her. Of course, that makes her death even more hideously ironic.
Bea was an objectively beautiful woman, but that fact seemed casually incidental to who she was. One detected no sense that she defined herself at all by how she looked. When she got cancer a few years ago and lost her blond hair, she just shrugged, at least outwardly. She whipped the disease with the same matter-of-fact toughness and dignity with which she approached everything else I ever saw her do. There was a casual honesty about her, an almost total lack of public artifice. I never saw any hint that Bea would behave one way in one place and different way in another.
We need more people like that in our world. We should be adding them, not losing them.
I’m not really a praying man, but for those of you who are better at it, please consider taking a moment for Bea’s family, particularly her kids. Help them take pleasure in the decency and forthrightness of the mother they got to share their world with.