Beardsley—Gene Elaine Stimart Beardsley, 85, of Gainesville, Fla., suddenly, on April 8, 2019, of unforeseen complications during heart valve replacement surgery. Named after author Gene Stratton Porter, Gene was born on August 14, 1933, in Atlanta, Ga., to Stella Nadeau and Elwood Stimart. Soon after her birth, the family moved to Downers Grove, Ill., where she graduated with honors from Downers Grove Community High School in 1951. She went on to earn a bachelor’s from the University of Illinois and a master’s in early childhood development from Cornell University.
After teaching at the University of Cincinnati for four years, she moved to San Francisco, Calif., and worked as a social worker at the Donaldina Cameron House, serving low-income and immigrant Asian youth and families. Here she met Richard Beardsley. She and Dick married in 1965 in San Francisco’s Chinatown and moved to Gainesville in 1966, joining Gainesville Meeting soon after. Gene served as clerk of the meeting and as secretary of Southeastern Yearly Meeting, making new friends both near and far.
She taught four years at Millhopper Unitarian Nursery School Cooperative, some of whose former little ones still remember her fondly. Later, she moved to the Alachua County Child Care Coalition (A4Cs) to coordinate teacher resources. In April 1970, she and Dick adopted their beautiful daughter, Shanna, who became the light of their lives.
Gene belonged to the League of Women Voters, the United Nations Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, but she would perhaps like most to be remembered for her work in social justice. She worked with a team of community interfaith leaders to create the Beltram Peace Center, and in the early 1980s with Citizens for a Non-Nuclear Future. Alongside the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, the United Church of Gainesville, the Congregation B’nai Israel, and other organizations, she and Dick created the Community Alliance for Peace Education (CAPE), which secured thousands of signatures and both City and County Commission resolutions for a national nuclear freeze. For their work with CAPE, the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Greater Gainesville gave them its Annual Human Rights Award in 1982.
Feeling that the welcoming of refugees is a central part of a beloved community, with Dick she helped to form the interfaith Gainesville Area Task Force on Sanctuary in 1985, which was financially supported by a wide array of local activists, students, and University of Florida (UF) professors. The task force sponsored the first Central American refugee family in Florida, a family housed in the Gainesville Meetinghouse. A few years later, she and Dick helped coordinate another effort in sponsoring a family from Vietnam.
In 1987, she entered Florida State University to earn a second master’s, this time in social work specializing in gerontology. She enjoyed her work at a local nursing home. Next, at UF UpReach Pavilion, she worked primarily with stroke survivors as liaison among the patient and family, the medical team, and the community, for which the Florida Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers honored her as Social Worker of the Year. She retired from UpReach in 2001.
Gene is survived by her husband, Dick Beardsley; her daughter, Shanna Beardsley Johnson (Glenn); two grandchildren; two sisters-in-law, Shirley Stimart and Sharon Beardsley; a brother-in-law, George Cobb; many nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews; even great-great-nieces and nephews; and a community who misses her dearly.