‘Service before self’

Friends say Mike Beahon ‘epitomized’ the Rotary motto

Although Mike Beahon was primarily known in the community for his service through organizations like the Fulton Rotary Club and the Rwanda Community Partnership, friends also made note of his devotion to and love for his family — including granddaughters Brooklyn and Lillian — as they remembered him this week. Beahon, a local community leader and former business owner, died Sunday of complications of kidney failure.

Although Mike Beahon was primarily known in the community for his service through organizations like the Fulton Rotary Club and the Rwanda Community Partnership, friends also made note of his devotion to and love for his family — including granddaughters Brooklyn and Lillian — as they remembered him this week. Beahon, a local community leader and former business owner, died Sunday of complications of kidney failure.

“He lived the (Rotary) motto of ‘Service above self.’”

Some version of that description of Mike Beahon has been uttered multiple times since the local community leader — and longtime Rotarian — passed away Sunday.

As many friends noted during his funeral Tuesday, Beahon, 70, dedicated his life to service.

Beahon joined the Jaycees in 1972 and later worked for Jaycees International for many years — at one point serving as the area director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He joined the Fulton Rotary Club in 1995, and during his years with the organization was a multiple Paul Harris Fellow winner, served as president in 2010-11, was named Fulton Rotarian of the Year in 2011-12 and recently was inducted as District Governor for Rotary District 6080.

In more recent years, Beahon became involved with the Rwanda Community Partnership, with which he made two trips to Rwanda, helped build two medical clinics in Callaway’s sister community of Kibungo and initiated establishment of a Kibungo Rotary Club — which received its charter last week.

“He spent most of his life doing for others,” said Mike Hill, who got to know Beahon through Rotary. “The Rotary motto is ‘Service before self,’ and Mike just really epitomized that. He lived that.”

Hill, whom Beahon encouraged to get more involved with Rotary, said his friend “made a lot of positive changes in that organization and helped move the club forward.”

“He was a very positive influence,” Hill said. “He worked to get the membership more involved in the community. He gave so much … he left a very great benchmark for the younger members to live up to.”

Current Rotary President Jill Gamlin said Beahon was a great mentor.

“He really took the time to get to know people and help them to achieve their goals,” Gamlin said. “We’re going to miss his leadership and his vision for our club.”

Rwanda Community Partnership founder Bob Hansen, who met Beahon in 2008 when he spoke to the Rotary about Rwanda, also referred to Beahon as a good mentor and described him as “a born leader, somebody who wanted to make a difference in the world.”

“He was a guy who was very loyal and would do anything for those he was connected to,” Hansen said.

Hansen shared his notes for his remembrance of Beahon at the funeral. Those notes included recollections of the 21 days they spent together during the first of two trips Beahon made to Rwanda, during which “I learned that Mike and I should not discuss politics or religion.”

“We recognized in each other that we were there on a mission, and that we also, thank God, enjoyed each others’ company,” Hansen wrote in his notes. “It is an understatement to say that Mike made a difference in the lives of those living in the remote area of Ngoma District in Rwanda.”

Hansen also referenced Mike and Mary Ann’s support of exchange students from Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana.

“They were family to these guys, and he was a father to them and they are so appreciative for all that he did for them,” Hansen wrote.

His notes also included an observation that was echoed by every other speaker at Beahon’s funeral: As devoted as Beahon was to serving others, he was equally devoted to his family.

“He was committed to his family … (in Rwanda I learned) he dearly loved his wife, daughter, son-in-law and his first granddaughter Brooklyn,” Hansen wrote.

Beahon’s daughter, Kelly Keller, described her father as her best friend, “so I lost two people in one.”

“He was my best friend and my hero,” Keller said, noting her father — who owned Sir Winston’s for eight years — was the reason she got her degree in hotel and restaurant management. “We did everything together.”

She said her father’s relationship with her oldest daughter was similar.

“He was best friends with Brooklyn too. They talked every day, twice a day — he called her on the way to school, and on the way home every day,” Keller said, noting she had just been talking about that special relationship with one of her cousins. “He said, ‘We each had a really good relationship with our grandfather, but that was nothing compared to Brooklyn and her Poppy.’ They were just as close as my dad and I.”

Beahon’s surviving loved ones include his wife, Mary Ann, his daughter, Kelly, and son-in-law, Kris Keller and his granddaughters, Brooklyn and Lillian.

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