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March 3, 1998

Laura and I are just back from one of our periodic visits with my cousin, Fred W. Beers, at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida. He and I like to kid each other that we are the last leaves on the family tree. Neither of us had any male children to carry on the Beers name, and as far as we know there are no other masculine Beerses in our family. Fred will be 89 on his next birthday and as for me, I have no plans for adding to the little family tree that has already sprouted through Kathy and Susan. Cousin Fred and I have no serious regrets along this line. Life has been good to both of us.

When my Dad died in 1931, Cousin Fred came to Perry from Oklahoma A.&M. (OSU) where he was a student. He lived with my family and helped my mother run the City Drug Store on the north side of the square. I grew up thinking he was my brother, and I so regard him today. My Dad's name also was Fred W. Beers. Cousin Fred was named for him. His own dad was Irving Beers, my dad's brother. Irving and his family lived in Kansas City, Missouri. After Cousin Fred graduated from high school there, he chose to become an Oklahoma Aggie. He was familiar with the school through frequent visits here during his childhood.

Before Dad passed away, Fred visited our home quite often. Someone would call and ask for "Fred." "Which one do you want, big Fred, little Fred or middle-size Fred?" was the usual response. We thought that was pretty funny.

Fred was a truly gifted singer, a robust bass, and he was a member of the Aggie Men's Glee Club. Here he did solos and sang in the Presbyterian choir and with various ensembles that appeared on the scene from time to time. He also was a fine pianist. The Rotary club and the Poor Boys both made him their pianist. The slide trombone was another instrument he mastered. Back then the Poor Boys used to sponsor an annual milk and ice fund benefit in the high school auditorium to assist needy families, and Fred was usually on the program at least once or twice to showcase his talents.

When he left here in 1940, Fred became a traveling representative for Western Auto Stores in the Kentucky area. One of his accounts was a gentleman in LaGrange, Kentucky, who had a beautiful, single daughter, Jane, a true Southern belle. Fred and Jane were married shortly before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, and Fred soon joined the newly formed Army Air Corps. He became a licensed pilot while living in Perry, taking lessons with 10-12 other young guys who strained to pool their resources and buy shares in a Piper Cub. The club was dissolved after one of the members did a pancake landing on their flying field at Fifteenth and Fir. Jane died a few years ago after a long spell as an invalid, and Fred was at her bedside all the way. They had no children.

Although Fred has been away from Perry nearly 60 years, you would be surprised at the number of things, people and events that he remembers from his time here. He knows the street address of dozens of folks and asks me questions about people that I had all but forgotten. For me he is an excellent source of Perry information dating from the 1930s. He can't drive any more -- he's legally blind -- and he won't fly because "you can't see the countryside from an airplane," so the chances of another visit here don't seem to be too good.

While Laura and I were with him last week in his lovely home, he developed a dizziness and other symptoms that concerned us enough that we took him to see his doctor, and he was admitted to a hospital in West Palm Beach for a battery of tests. Yesterday morning he had surgery to clean out the 90+ plus blockage in his right carotid artery. The results of that procedure will be known in due time. Besides having already lost his vision for all intents and purposes, he has survived a stroke and abdominal cancer, which seems to indicate that he's about as tough as he was when he was a young man living in our little city, the way I always think of him. But even if you've never met him, I'll appreciate your prayers for him, and so will he.