Myrtle Bell Beavers, Ph.D., age 86, passed away on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020 with her loving daughters by her bedside. Dr. Beavers married her Air Force soldier sweetheart Carl Edward Beavers, now deceased, on Jan. 6, 1953.
They had been married 65 years when he died on May 20, 2018. Dr. Beavers was of the Christian faith and is now in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
She will be next to her sweetheart and near her beloved mother to whom she always looked to for her guiding inspiration.
Funeral service is 2 p.m. Thursday at the Dowden-Roberts Funeral Home Chapel in Heavener. Burial will follow in the Heavener Memorial Park under the direction of Dowden-Roberts Funeral Home of Heavener.
Born at home in the Little Gray House on a Hill on April 21, 1934, to Robert Lee and Hattie Morton of Hix, she was the ninth child of 10. She is predeceased by her parents; six sisters Stella, Lorado, Hettie, Guffie, Nellie and Earlene; and by three brothers Robert Lee, Jr., Joel Jack Morton and Dewayne Morton.
Survivors include her three children Stephanie Taylor of Madison, Alabama, Cary Jo Knight of Destin, Florida and Chris Beavers of Georgia; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
At the age of six, Myrtle received her first hoe and joined her other siblings hoeing cotton and corn fields on the family farm, as well as in the garden. She also began attending a one-room school house. At that time, schools were suspended for a while so rural students could help gather their families’ crops. She loved her teacher, John Bateman, and also loved school. Hence her love for life-long learning was birthed in that little one-room school house.
Around 1945, Hix consolidated with Haw Creek, and the few students were first transported there in John Miller’s flat bed truck that he had turned into a “covered wagon” to shield the students from inclement weather. Later, a school bus was purchased. In 1947, she began eighth grade at Heavener High School, graduating in 1952.
After Carl and Myrtle Bell were married, they moved to Sumter, South Carolina, which was near Shaw AFB where Carl was stationed and where their first child, Stephanie Carleah, was born on April 28. 1954. In January, 1955, Carl was sent to Shepherd’s Grove AFB in England. Myrtle and Stephanie joined him in May, traveling by train to New York City. Three days later they boarded the General Butner to cross the Atlantic, a long journey of nine days.
In England, they first lived in a hunting lodge in East Harling. The lodge, filled with stuffed birds and animals, had a back deck that extended somewhat over a small river. The small kitchen boasted a 3 cubic foot refrigerator. A month later they moved to Stanton, a mile from Shepherd’s Grove AFB. After a year in a 100 yr-old house with an outdoor toilet and cold running water, they moved nine miles away to a new bungalow at Thurston, near Bury St. Edmunds. A very small coal fireplace provided the only winter’s warmth in one room—after the ashes were first removed to the outside in rain or snow—the bucket then filled with coal to help build a small fire. Coal was rationed to three bags every two weeks, sometimes not nearly enough for the deep freezes and snow that were so frequent. Except for the extreme cold, she was well-suited for this kind of work because of her growing up years on a working farm.
During the three years overseas, the family traveled all over England and Scotland. Some of the highlights they enjoyed included the spectacular Trooping the Color Ceremony, honoring Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, and nine days traveling in nine countries on the continent, especially enjoying the historicity of the great cities of Paris, Pisa, Florence, and Rome. She soaked in history, especially anything related to the World War II era, so this was a treasured time for her. While in England, Myrtle volunteered many hours as a Red Cross Gray Lady in the base hospital and the American hospital in Cambridge.
Once their tour was up, they were reassigned to Otis AFB for another 3-year stint. Another daughter, Cary Jo (1959) followed by a son, Christopher (1960) arrived during their tenure in cold Massachusetts.
In 1962, the family was reassigned to Tyndall AFB, Florida, for another 3-year stint. While there, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred, a scary time for our nation. It was here that, Myrtle Bell enrolled in a writing correspondence course which helped to nourish that spark for creative writing and literature within her that had been started in her early years. Her growing family kept her busy with school activities, cooking and baking, and sewing clothes for her children. In fact, it was here that she began to perfect her sewing skills that she had begun on the farm as a small child. As with everything she put her hand to, she pursued these daily tasks with excellence.
Then in December 1965, Carl received orders for Phan Rang, Vietnam, leaving the states in January 1966. Myrtle Bell and children moved to Heavener while her husband was away but kept in touch with him via tape letters, popular at that time. He returned in 1967, 40 pounds lighter. Carl was then reassigned to Hurlburt Field, Florida. During the summer at Hurlburt, Myrtle Bell completed all of the Red Cross swimming classes and then taught swimming from beginners to water safety classes. It was here that Myrtle Bell began attending business classes in order to help support her family in the future.
In 1969, Carl retired from the Air Force, and the family moved to Fort Walton Beach. A particular highlight was that in July, Myrtle Bell and her three children accompanied her brother and son, Curtis, to Cape Canaveral to witness Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin, blast off for the moon, another thrilling milestone for our nation
A new community college had just been built close by, and so she began her formal education, taking only one or two classes at a time in order to be at home when her children came home from school. With her mother’s ever-present encouragement in mind, she soon graduated with an Associate of Arts degree. It was here that she realized more than ever that her heart was more inclined to an English major rather than a business degree. She especially loved literature and writing. She pressed forward in pursuit of her dream despite many obstacles and soon received her BA in English Education with a minor in Business Education in 1972, simply as a backup. She was immediately invited to begin her formal teaching career in English at Fort Walton Beach High School. But that spark for creative writing and literature could not be stifled. So she soon earned a MA in English from the University of West Florida in 1974 while working full-time at the high school, again overcoming every obstacle in her path. She continued teaching, but also added teaching English part-time at the same college in which she began her formal education. During this time, Dr. Beavers was invited by the publishers to review the well-known Harbrace College Grammar Handbooks for correctness and to offer suggestions for revisions. These handbooks are used by colleges throughout the nation.
In 1979, the couple moved to their waterfront property in Destin, Florida where they built a home that Myrtle Bell had designed. It was here that she became a doting grandmother to her grandchildren that came along. Also, during this time, Myrtle Bell continued her creative writing of which many were published. She also put her sewing skills to work and became an avid quilter. Her hand-stitched quilts have been treasured and admired by many.
In 1984, Dr. Beavers left the high school and began teaching English full-time at Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, now named Northwest Florida State College. The fire in her bones for writing and literature would not go away. Never one to give up and now in her 50s, she soon applied for acceptance into the English Doctoral Program at Florida State University and was accepted. After completing 12 hours, she took a sabbatical leave from teaching to finish the required course work and moved onto the FSU campus in Tallahassee, Florida. In 1992, after completing her coursework, she began preparing for her Comprehensive Written Exam scheduled for August. This rigorous 12 hour exam, known as Prelims, was grueling and covered all of the course work she had completed. When she finished, she did not have to return to the Committee for more questioning or to rewrite anything on the Comprehensives, which was highly unusual. Not long afterwards, she went before her Doctoral Committee of five men and defended her Prelims. The professors questioned her about literally dozens of novels, hundreds of poems and authors, dozens of essays, and dozens of plays—all Eighteenth Century British Literature. She passed with high praise and could now begin writing her dissertation.
In the midst of working on her doctorate, a professor at FSU asked Dr. Beavers, who was of Oklahoma Cherokee ancestry, to make a pictorial/lecture video telling the story about the Cherokee Indians and their removal which would be used in cultural classes then being taught at FSU. She gladly did so.
Her next task on her doctoral journey involved selecting her subject of study and submitting the required, detailed, and original proposal and approach for her dissertation. Dr. Beavers chose Thomas Hardy’s Life’s Little Ironies as her subject of study, one of immense depth, symbolism, and life application. Both the proposal and the approach were approved by all five members of her Doctoral Committee. Throughout this rigorous process, the Doctoral Committee never asked or required Dr. Beavers to change a single thing, which was very unusual for a Doctoral candidate. By December, 1993, she had completed the 450-page dissertation and once again prepared to defend her work before the Committee. During her defense in December of the same year, she answered hundreds of scholarly questions concerning the postulates she had made throughout her dissertation, as well as her theory about the structural significance of her study subject. She again passed with high praise from her Committee. Her dissertation also passed the scrutiny of an Examiner of Dissertations in regards to following the guidelines outlined in the official handbook explaining all of the nuances a writer must follow. Although her defense was more than successful, Dr. Beavers waited until Feb. 22, 1994, to officially submit her dissertation to FSU and thence to the bindery so it would be on the 100th birthday of the publication of Hardy’s book. Subsequently, she was honorably recognized and received a financial award by FSU’s English Department having the most outstanding dissertation on British Literature submitted that year. She was a lifelong member of Phi Kappa Phi.
Never one to stop, Dr. Beavers continued scholarly writing after her formal education was completed. Examples of her scholarly writing includes having the honor of writing the first published critical analysis of the writings of other scholars for the UCLA American Indian Culture and Research Studies. Her analysis focused on the book, Leslie Marmon Silko: A Collection of Critiques by 13 literary critics, each of whom had critiqued one of Silko’s short stories. She also wrote a Review of Boston Mountain: Stories from a Cherokee Family by Glenn J. Twist, stories concerning Indian life in the Boston Mountains in northeast Oklahoma. The Review was also published by UCLA.
One of her greatest desires to come out of her scholarly writings is her hope that they would help another up-and-coming writer someday. She wanted her writings to be preserved in hopes that one day someone with a love of the written word would find her works to be of value and benefit.
Dr. Beavers eventually retired from teaching in 2003 to care for her husband who had many severe health issues. In early 2015, the couple returned permanently to Oklahoma for her heart had never left the hills of Oklahoma. Her husband died on May 20, 2018.
Throughout Myrtle’s life and aside from her many scholarly pursuits and achievements, she wrote many articles, a short story, and several critical essays. She authored over 100 poems, many of which were published or orally presented. After requesting permission, one of her cherished stories about a special Christmas at the Little Gray House on the Hill was adapted by a well-known writer for a story in the Oklahoma Today periodical.
Her first book was a biography of her mother, Hattie Morton, entitled Portrait of a Pioneer Woman: A Rock of Courage. Another early book she published was a book of poetry, The Spider’s Touch. Her last book, Across the Years with My Three Children, was written especially for her children and covered her life from marriage until her youngest graduated from high school. An added personal highlight for Myrtle Bell was the late Colleen Huddleston of Heavener gave her permission to write the story about Colleen’s husband, Earl Huddleston—a Heavener World War II hero. Myrtle Bell considered it a high and sacred honor that Colleen allowed Myrtle Bell to peer into the private life of Earl through pictures, his letters, photos of his medals, and other miscellaneous items. The finished book was treasured immensely by Colleen.
It is an understatement to say that Myrtle Bell was a prolific writer; and not just for scholarly purposes. In short, Myrtle Bell passionately loved the written word. She loved the touch and feel of the pages of a book and the sound the pages made as they were turned. Her first book was one that she found as a small child in an abandoned home near The Little Gray House where she was born. That early exposure to the written word, together with her imagination and the lessons she learned in the one-room school house in Hix, set her life on its course. It is fitting that perhaps her greatest talent was writing. She wrote volumes of letters to family, friend, and foe. But most precious of all is that she wrote many, many letters to her family throughout the years that painted word pictures of her growing up years and applied lessons learned to present circumstances. She was passionate about passing on family history. During the last few years, she was gratefully able to share with the readers of the Heavener Ledger her memories of yesteryear. She never stopped writing even to the end. At the time of her death she was finishing a book on her life story for her family. Still lying in her room, are unfinished writings that she wanted to complete. She still had more collected memories she wanted to share. She especially wanted to conclude her Ledger writings with a tribute to her mother and father who inspired her throughout her life.
Myrtle Bell was a unique and multi-talented individual. She never gave up. She always pursued excellence in whatever she did. But most of all, she was a wonderful, loving mother to her children and grandchildren and a loving wife to her husband. She has left a hole in the hearts of all who knew and loved her.
Viewing is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. The family will have visitation with friends from 10 a.m. to noon, Thursday at the funeral home.
To sign Myrtle’s online guestbook please visit www.dowdenrobertsfuneralhome.com.