“Nice to meet you, I’m Bev, welcome to Port Alberni.”
October 1985. Bev’s husband Elmer, and Dr. Chris Muller had met me at the ferry terminal in Nanaimo. I was the new Pastor arriving from Cape Town to take up the position at St. Alban’s Church in Port Alberni. My first stop in town was at the church where Bev was introduced to me as my secretary. “What am I going to do with a secretary?” I asked myself feeling somewhat nervous and insecure. Ten years later Bev was still my secretary and I would have been absolutely lost without her.
On May 27th, 2022, Bev Speidel quietly slipped away from us and entered heaven early in the morning with the rising sun. Her son Richie announced that his mother had “Passed to glory!”
I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to declare that Bev is one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. Let’s free flow with attributes in no particular order: conscientious, efficient, kind, thoughtful, astute, compassionate, understanding, empathic, generous, humor-filled, loyal, pragmatic, loving, and good. There’s a start. Bev loved Jesus and was always hungry to grow and to know and experience more of the reality and mystery of God. She was unafraid of change, while being sensitive to process when implementing. Often she saved me from myself. “Well John,” clearing her throat, “slow down, consider this…. yes, but….” She answered the office phone with cheerful warmth, patient diplomacy, wisdom, and thoughtfulness. Bev would come in and talk to me when others may have been more hesitant. She encouraged and she questioned while being the most loyal and supportive friend. I would often unburden my frustrations and questions (sprinkled with some delight) in her presence and she gifted me with listening, not over-reacting, and then offering insight and suggestions.
To be vulnerable, in many ways she was like the mother I never had. And that consistency of unconditional love stretched through times that were sometimes wonderful and on occasion challenging – for at least twenty five years. I share this because I don’t think I was the only one. Bev loved and cared for many with warmth, a dimpled smile, bright eyes, and an optimistic faith that overflowed from the wellspring in her heart where Jesus was alive. Nothing was ever so bad that there was no room for hope and faith to lean into.
I had just written the last paragraph when Diana Patterson sent me these thoughts: When I think of Bev I think of a mother figure who was always thinking of others. She was a spiritual mentor to me and so may others. She often talked about bringing out the gold in people and encouraging them to walk forward with the Lord.
Bev’s family was the bedrock of her life. She loved Elmer and her boys, Richie and Brent, fiercely – and took no nonsense from any of them :-). She supported them in their lives and career decisions, did not cling tight, and let them go to fly (or perhaps experience the odd tumble) knowing that she’d always be their greatest fan. Her love easily expanded to embrace Brent and Richie’s growing families and eventually grandchildren, her sister Toodles and her family, and her younger brother Jim. No doubt there were others of whom I’m not aware so please forgive unwitting omissions.
Over the years Bev entertained me with countless stories of her years growing up, meeting Elmer, arriving in Port Alberni with the new American celebrity basketball coach, raising the boys, championing ‘Women’s Aglow’, and praying for God to touch many lives in Port Alberni. She enjoyed great friendships; Larry and Lorraine Hannah, John and Barbara Jemson, Glen and Mary Murray, Efra Davidson, and Helena Brown being some of the longest and closest. Bev was teased for stocking her basement with so much food ‘just in case’; a veritable packrat. “Humph,” she might retort tugging at her cardigan, “Well, you just never know.”
Bev was such a special person warm and compassionate. She was a prayer warrior that lived her faith. A picture of her shaking with laughter, she had such a sense of humor. (Jean Cutforth)
Bev was like a older sister to me who would always give you an ear if you needed it. She was always fun & loving & a joy to be around. One of her hugs was like a teddy bear hug. (Norma Matthews)
There are many qualities that l could speak of that drew people to Bev. One of the things things that impacted me as I watched Bev walk out her faith was her understanding that healing for most people, whether emotional, physical, or spiritual, is best done in a supportive community. Over many years she and Elmer often had people who were all alone and experiencing, stress, trauma, depression, recovering from surgery, grieving the loss of a loved one, or even perhaps a divorce, come and stay in their home for a few days… maybe a week or three. She provided a loving, non judgmental oasis for people to recover, to find a way to move forward, to experience being cared for – or time to just ‘get back on their feet’. That is one of the ways her life reflected Jesus. (Lynn Burnip)
Bev’s faith was matter of fact with a confidence in Jesus that was wise and insightful. She was no nonsense but kindly. You could talk to her and be sure she was listening by her comments and questions. She didn’t get perturbed easily. Bev was easygoing and laughed readily, and she genuinely cared about people. She and Elmer were hospitable and we shared many good times and discussions over dinners. (Ken Seegmiller)
I will always cherish my friendship with Bev which spanned 30 plus years. She was a friend you could really talk to….one who would really listen and give wise council. I fondly remember going for walks with Bev after her heart surgery…. These were special times that gave me a deep appreciation for this gracious woman and the rock solid faith she shared openly. (Shauna Seegmiller)
Bev always believed the best for people without being sentimental or romantically idealistic. Eventually as Elmer’s condition began to demand greater care they moved up to Terrace where Brent and Christine could support them. After Elmer’s death Bev spent her last years in Vancouver near Richie and Sandy, their children, and great grandchildren. Despite significant challenges Bev cared for others to the end as is aptly reflected in these thoughts shared by Richie:
I need to separate the earlier part of her life from the struggles she faced these last years to cope with the series of losses she experienced (eyesight, mobility, freedom, gardening, enjoyment of food, friendships, husband, and physical community faith life). Covid contributed significantly to this world of isolation that she ended up in, with constant feeding by the media, government, and even her assisted living home, a culture of fear and danger ‘out there’. She was able to hold onto two missions in the end – to support a few of the ladies in her home who she befriended at her meal table, and generosity expressed toward her kids, grandkids, and three great-grandkids. This was a reflection of a generous spirit that she developed earlier in family and church community life in Port Alberni. She did love to shop, and enjoyed gifting to others. Let me leave you with these few words from Sheila, a woman who mom listened to and ate with in Augustine House:
I am so saddened – your dear mother Bev has been such a support to me here at Augustine House – I will miss her for ever
I admire her stamina and her ability to cope even phoning an ambulance herself one night!
I picture the last night I remember her leaving me at my door and she heading along the corridor to her room
We know she is in a better place and relieved of all her suffering
Forgive me I cannot recall your wife’s name – I remember clearly that night we were gathered down stairs for some evening get together when you recognized me – your Mum did not feel up to coming down – this before all the lock down
If you have time to drop in occasionally and see me I would really appreciate visiting with you both
May our Lord give you all strength for the days ahead
With my sincerest sympathies in the loss of your mother dear Bev
There are many who have been blessed, encouraged, loved, and cared for by Bev throughout her long, humble, and fruitful life. I love the phrase – she died full of years. We are so grateful for her and are confident that her faith in Jesus is now fulfilled way beyond our imaginings. We thank God for Bev and pray for his peace and comfort over her entire family as they celebrate and grieve her life and passing. Her son Brent has the last word from his Facebook posting: After a well lived 89 years, mom passed away peacefully in her sleep last night. she lived right up to the end on her terms and always had a strong opinion on everything. Richie and I were very fortunate to have such a strong woman guide our early years and we have so much to be thankful for. Rest in Peace mom.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’ ” (John 11:25-26)
Bev loved music and she was passionate about worship expressed in song. She enjoyed the songs in the 80’s of Robin Mark from Ireland. Here’s one to send her on her way, “When It’s All Been Said and Done.”
When someone you love
becomes a memory,
the memory becomes a treasure
Thanks John and Port Alberni friends so much for the thoughtful sharing.
Bev and Elmer were constants in my life for each time we visited home or she and Mum traveling up to Victoria. My heart hurts for knowing she is no longer (earthly) with us but rejoicing in her new heavenly home with family and friends. Condolences to the Speidel family, a tough loss for sure. Lucinda Welch (Jemson)
Richie, I can see where you get much of your charming qualities from! You cared for her till the very end! Way to go my brother! Blessings!
Wow!, What a great remembrance and tribute. Thanks everyone for sharing all the heart warming memories of Bev 💕.
Am saddened by your loss John cox.
Beautiful memories of Bev such a lovely lady God bless
I didn’t know this lady at all but you conjure up an inspiring and genuine Christian life, which has been fascinating to read about in such a well written article – thank you, John! Obits can have a lot to teach us…Bev was obviously a Godsend in your ministry and a stalwart support to the church community and her family.
Thanks Debby, kind of you to respond. Hope all is well in London 🙂