June 4, 1999
Our town paid its last respects the other day to Biber, the quintessential court jester who through the years probably entertained (at least once) for every club, class reunion, wedding and/or baby shower and just about anything else locally where two or more were gathered together. She will be missed because, frankly, she was one of a kind.
Although she has been out of circulation and residing at Green Valley Nursing Home the past few years, Belva Vanbiber never, ever lost interest in her adopted town of Perry. She was an instantaneous friend of every youngster, teen-ager or adult whose path crossed hers and while her eyesight was still good she could call most of them by name. She loved everybody; children were her special joy.
To several generations of Perry kiddos, she was "the Halloween Witch" in October and "Mrs. Santa Claus" in December. Until his death a few years ago, her husband Russell was an accomplice in those holiday affairs. Both of them dressed in garish costumes suitable for the occasion and Russell enjoyed his role as straight man while Biber, as she was affectionately known by one and all, kept up a steady stream of chatter with the big and little folks who came to see her.
But even before she took on those responsibilities, Biber made herself available to entertain meetings of all sizes and description. Her "readings" were both serious and humorous and they could be adapted to any length as time allowed. For the most part they were original, but she borrowed frequently from the works of poets and essayists to get her point across. She loved poetry and some of her originals were published in book form.
Even when age and debilitating illness slowed her down, Biber was a cheerleader. She did her best to raise the morale of everyone around her at the nursing home. She smiled broadly each time a visitor spoke to her at Green Valley and responded warmly when called by her nickname. In her arms she usually cradled a baby doll, which I think was a symbol of her all-encompassing maternal instinct.
Biber was truly touched each time someone paused to reminisce about the years when she did so much to bring a smile or a sober, thought to some gathering. She enjoyed her life and was pleased to share it with so many friends and youngsters in this area. I have never known anyone quite like her and it is possible that there will never be another. The mold must have been broken after the Creator presented Biber to the world. We'll miss her, but we'll remember the character she exemplified with her lifetime of serving others with the gifts she had.