Beard left a legacy of community service
There may be no understanding why Battlement Mesa Co. executive and Republican Party official Tom Beard recently took his own life. But there’s no disputing how much Beard gave to others during that life, for the good of the community in which he lived.Beard committed suicide Feb. 22 in an act that defied explanation for those who knew him, and they were many. A standing-room-only funeral service at a Glenwood Springs church testified to how many lives he had touched since moving to the area in the early 1990s. The stories friends and family shared spoke to how great a man Beard was – and thus how great a void his death has left in our community.As general manager of the unincorporated community of Battlement Mesa, Beard helped shepherd its further growth as it continued to adjust to no longer being a worker community for Exxon, following that company’s termination of its oil shale activities in the early 1980s.Beard also advocated for the community’s residents, many of them retired, helping to bring a medical center and pharmacy to Battlement Mesa.As a developer, he also immediately recognized the depth of the problem of high housing costs in Garfield County, and quickly became involved on an affordable housing commission in Glenwood Springs. He also was a developer who recognized the value of keeping some undeveloped lands as they were. He and his wife Pam Szedelyi joined other homeowners up Canyon Creek in putting acreage in conservation easements to help that valley keep its rural nature.Beard committed himself to the cause of community corrections, serving on a county board addressing that issue. He also worked on a county socioeconomic study and helped to write the county’s proposed new subdivision regulations. More generally, he is remembered as someone who was inclined to do what he could wherever the need arose.Beard was an ardent Republican who was that party’s county chair when he died. Yet the number of Democrats who came to his service spoke to his open-mindedness, his general interest in people whatever their politics, and the fact that many of the causes he became involved in crossed party lines.Beard left legacies of community contribution in Arizona and Florida similar to the one he left here. It’s heartbreaking to think that such an accomplished person who was held in such high regard by so many felt compelled to take his own life. Along with so many others in our community, we extend our condolences to his wife and join in mourning her loss. It is Garfield County’s loss, too.
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