We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Arthur Earl Beaver. In our sadness we look for comfort and a sure hope. To that end I direct your attention to the Word of God,
Ps. 34:18-19 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me. [John 14:1-6]
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not made by human hands, Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed we will not be found naked. therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. [2 Cor 5:1ff]
Will you pray with me.
Our Father, we bow before You today as once again we face the temporary nature of our earthly lives. We run to You as the one who gives life and the one who brings into our lives the transition period called death. Today we look to you for strength. Even though we knew this day was coming, now that it has arrived, it has left us weak. Draw us close by your Spirit. Wrap us in your arms and remind us of your love. Today we need that hope that comes through faith in Christ alone. Point us again to the truths that set us free. We ask these things in the name of Christ, Amen.
Art Beaver, was born April 21, 1921 near Avon, Illinois, to Charles and Flora Bell Beaver. Art was a young man that enjoyed music and the outdoors. He liked to hunt and fish with his dad and his friends.
Art graduated from Macomb High School in 1939 and attended Western Illinois University. He served in the Macomb National Guard until being called up to active duty in 1941. He served with the 106th Infantry Division Band and played for many Military ceremonies, fund-raising events, and provided entertainment. The division also served on guard duty or anything else they were told to do.
During this time Art was also part of a Dance band. This was not officially a military band but they played for officer clubs, USO’s, and in area communities. These men were fine musicians and loved to play the Swing music that was popular at the time.
While serving at Camp Forrest, Tennessee this group of “Damn Yankees” from Illinois (as they were called) were ordered to participate in the burial services for one of the last remaining Confederate soldiers in the area. The fact that this Confederate soldier was buried with military honor was an unprecedented event. It was the first time men from the North had given military rites to a Confederate soldier. This one act of respect by men from the North did much to melt lingering tensions.
In November of 1944 Art and company were shipped overseas to Belgium. They believed they were going to Belgium to play for entertainment and lift the morale of the soldiers. They arrived in Belgium in early December and had no sooner arrived than they were told they were needed for security duty. Within days of arriving in Belgium they had not only put their instruments in storage, they found themselves in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge. Fierce fighting raged all around them.
Art’s division was next assigned to security details at Headquarters and in towns taken by the Allied forces. I remember Art saying, “We lost a lot of good men.” Art counted himself fortunate to have served with his lifelong friend Allen Walker. Frequently Art would become reflective and say to Allen, “You know, we’re fortunate to be alive.” Art and Allen remained dear friends to the last day of Art’s life.
Art came home from the war after his “one year of service” that lasted 4 years and 8 months. He played his trumpet a little after coming home, but big band music was giving way to Rock and Roll, so Art gave his attention to farming.
On December 9, 1951 he married Mable Leighty in Macomb, Illinois. Art must not have been planning carefully enough. December 9th was the last day of hunting season! Of course, it could have been that Art was so in love that it didn’t matter.
On July 2, 1955 Art and Mable adopted their son Steve. Anyone who knew the Beavers knew that he was their pride and joy and this was true throughout their lives.
Art farmed in Durham Township near Colusa, Illinois until moving to Dallas City in 1974. He worked as a substitute Rural Mail Carrier for several years before working a full time route. Art and Mable served as leaders of the Colusa Busy Beavers 4-H Club and were active in forming and participating in programs for the hearing impaired through the Methodist Church in Dallas City.
Mable preceded him in death on October 5, 1995.
Art moved to LaHarpe in the spring of 2000. He was a former member of the Dallas City Lions Club where he served as secretary. He was also a member of the LaHarpe Masonic Lodge 195, the LaHarpe Union Church and the Rural Mail Carriers Association.
He is survived by one son, Steven Beaver, his wife Lynne, and one grandson, Christopher Beaver, all of LaHarpe.
Art Beaver was a fun guy to be around. He had a gentle heart and quiet way about him. He had a wry sense of humor that would often catch you off guard. His hearty laugh and bright eyes made everyone feel comfortable around him.
Art was justifiably proud of his military service. He went overseas willing to do whatever his country asked him to do. He had little understanding or tolerance for those who showed little respect for our country. Art didn’t understand why someone would fight our own military by their public protests.
As a farmer, Art used to love working with his neighbors. He especially enjoyed their time on the Hay Crew. They each helped each other bale hay. Frankly, I think Art enjoyed this so much because all his neighbors were just as crazy as he was!
As a husband, Art was an adoring spouse. He counted himself a fortunate man to have found Mable. When you read 1 Corinthians 13 you get the sense that Paul was talking about Art and Mable. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always perseveres.”
This love was not just confined to each other. They always tried to extend the love of Christ to everyone they met. When Mable died it left a huge hole in Art’s heart.
When they moved to Dallas City, Art enjoyed his work as a mail carrier. I’m told that he was one of those guys who always checked the mail that one last time before putting it into the box, so that he was sure to get the mail where it needed to go. Everybody enjoyed visiting with Art.
Art also sharpened chain saws, saws, and lawn mower blades. I’m told he was good at it, and always charged a reasonable price.
When Art retired he could be found every morning at Casey’s where he was part of the “Apple Dumpling Gang”. The guys gathered to solve all the world’s problems and then they would head down the street to continue their conversation in the back room of the Dallas City Enterprise.
Art was an avid reader and loved to read books by Tom Clancey, James Michner and many others.
As a father, Steve remembers that Art was a dad who always had time for him. No matter how long a day Art had worked he would take the time to go out in the yard and toss the ball with Steve–sometimes well into the darkness. Art had his priorities clear.
Art and Mable went to everything Steve was involved in. They went to his band performances, track meets, basketball games and even all the Believers concerts (where they would always tape the performance). Steve could always tell when his folks were present because he would hear his dad’s distinctive cough.
When Steve would take the car his dad always told him to drive “like he had a lick of sense.” And when something good happened, Art would declare, “Good deal, Lucille.” When Steve married Lynne he figured he had better stop saying that.
As a Father-in-law Art loved Lynne as the daughter he never had. He was proud that his son made such a good choice for his wife.
The arrival of Christopher was another of those great moments in Art’s life. All his friends talked about their grandchildren, and now Art had someone to brag about. He always had a “Christopher Story”. He marveled at how smart and fun he was. He loved Chris and knew that Chris loved him.
Art loved to give Chris a hard time and I think Chris would give it right back to him. One day Art took Chris and his cousins to the park. Art was in one of those playful moods and started telling the kids that people could conceal guns in their canes. “So”, he said, “watch out for those old people with canes, they might raise their cane and shoot you!”
In these last years of his life Art decided to enjoy his final years. He purchased a BOSE radio that had a remote control so he could listen to the Big Band Swing Music with clarity on Saturday nights on WIUM radio without ever getting out of his chair. He purchased a Cadillac because . . . well heck, he had always wanted to own one. He enjoyed driving the car and was disappointed he didn’t get to drive it more than he did.
Up until the end of his life Art was having fun. Just last Sunday Connie made Art a dinner of liver and onions and blackberry pie. After dinner, Art said, “If I died right now, I’d go to Heaven happy.”
We will miss Art’s wonderful spirit, his cheerful laugh and his warm heart.
As we think about Art’s death we find ourselves in peculiar territory. We want to grieve (and should) but we also want to smile and rejoice.
For us, this is a sad day. Someone we love and care about is gone. The questions we wanted to ask will have to remain unanswered. The things we wanted to share will have to be shared with another. The visits we hoped to have will be unrealized. We will miss Art Beaver.
On the other hand there is a part of us that wants to smile today. We smile not only for the wonderful memories but also because of our confidence in the resurrection for everyone who trusts Christ. For us, this is a sad day . . . for Art it is the day of graduation, reunion, renewal and final redemption.
I can’t help thinking about this classic passage in 2 Timothy 4. At the end of Paul’s life he wrote,
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Art was a man who served well and served faithfully. He served his country, his community, his church, and his family. He didn’t look for applause, and he wasn’t doing it to be noticed. He served because it was the right thing to do. When Mable died, Art concluded that he could sit around and feel sorry for himself, or he could move on and make the necessary adjustments. He made the best of his situation and had fun on the journey.
His character was highlighted in these last years as he accepted the fact that his judgment might not be as good as it needed to be. He listened to Steve and trusted him in the decisions he had to make. He humbled himself out of a desire to do what was right.
Over these last couple of years Art and I had several conversations about Heaven. Several times over the last year Art was quite sick and thought he might die. He was eager and ready to talk about eternity. I asked him if he was ready to die. He said, “Yes, I’m not afraid of dying. I just hope I make it to Heaven.” Then I would say, “OK, Art, let’s go through this again . . . you don’t get Heaven by being good enough.”
I explained that none of us are good enough to earn Heaven. That’s why we need Jesus. I told him that by trusting Christ we could be sure of Heaven. Through those conversations I came to believe that Art not only understood what I was saying, he had come to trust the one who made the promise more fully. I believer Art had been a follower of Christ for many years but in these last years he began to understand the depth and richness of God’s promise. Today, Art understands God’s magnificent grace with a whole new appreciation.
The other thing I love about this passage in 2 Timothy is the word “Now”. I have fought the good fight, finished the course, kept the faith . . . and now . . . “ What important words these are. What wonderful words of comfort.
We live in a time when many feel that we should live the best we can and then it is over. They believe we live and then live no more. You can say of someone, “they lived a good life.” But that is all you can say. We live, we die, and that’s the end of the story. There is no “now”. Fortunately, the child of God has a different perspective..
The Bible points to a life beyond the grave and it points to the resurrection of Jesus as the evidence of that life. The Bible teaches us about Heaven. In Revelation 22 we read these words from God,
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. [Rev. 20:3-5]
The Bible tells us that Heaven will be a place where evil will be erased, friends who have died Christians will be reunited and we will be in the presence of God forever. Practically this means,
- Art’s body is whole again
- He is with Mable and other friends and family who have gone before him
- He is reunited with some of his army buddies who have died
- He is with Jesus and never ever has to worry again about whether or not he will “make it” to Heaven.
- He is surrounded by the music that is more beautiful than anything the world has to offer.
- His questions are all answered
- His nourishment is sweeter and more delightful than even Liver, onions and blackberry pie.
For Art this is not a bad day . . . but a very very good day.
I believe the Bible is clear about the fact that a Christian (a person who truly trusts Christ to forgive and cleanse them of their sin) goes to be with Christ immediately when they die. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “TODAY you will be with me in paradise.” Paul told us, “if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have an eternal house in Heaven, not made by human hands.”
In the book of Philippians, Paul wondered whether it was better to depart and be with Christ or to remain with the Philippians a while longer. Do you understand? If we don’t go to be with Christ until the Judgment Day some time in the future, there would have been no debate for Paul. Certainly you would try to live as long as you could.
But that is not Paul’s answer. Paul felt it would be better to depart (die) and be with Christ . . . even though He thought God still had work for him to do on earth.
The body we lay in the ground today is only the earthly skin, bones and clothing that Art wore. Art Beaver. . . the person we loved, is with Jesus. He is with Jesus because God has extended the offer of salvation to anyone who will believe, and Art received that gift.
So, today we laugh and we cry. We smile and we grieve. We are glad for Art and sad for ourselves. It may seem silly for us to fluctuate in our emotions as we do . . . but that is the nature of death. That is the struggle between what is seen and unseen. There is no need to be embarrassed in grief. It’s natural, normal, and appropriate. But we do grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. Today we stand firmly in the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we give thanks to God for the life of Arthur Earl Beaver. We give thanks to God for the faith that God gave to Art. We give thanks to God for Jesus and the assurance that this is not the end of the story. We pray that God will lead us to trust Jesus for our salvation. We pray for wisdom to grasp the wonder of eternal life. And we pray for strength to carry on until that day when we will meet again . . . in the Father’s house.
Our Father, thank you for the life of Arthur Beaver. We thank you for his service, his spirit, his sense of humor, and his deep regard for life and for those he came in contact with throughout his life.
Father, please welcome Art into Heaven. Grant him the riches of your grace that have come through Jesus. Please, let Art know that we miss him already.
Father, help us. Help us to see beyond what we can see. Help us to trust what is unseen and eternal. Keep us, strengthen us, and lead us to that day when we too shall enter your Kingdom and rejoice in love and be united with those who have led the way in our lives. We ask this in the name of Christ. Amen.
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen [Hebrews 12:20-21]