Ohio first responder philanthropist to be honored with official firefighter funeral
She helped local EMTs pay for their training and continuing education courses
The Daily Record, Wooster, Ohio
WOOSTER, Ohio — Audrey Beaverson never put out a fire. She never administered lifesaving treatment. But her philanthropy, often delivered quietly, greatly assisted the Wayne County fire and EMS community in their efforts to save lives and, for that, she will be honored with an official firefighter funeral.
The Wayne County Fire and Rescue Association has organized the funeral procession that will take Beaverson, who died on Sunday, from St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church to her final resting place at Sherwood Memorial Gardens on Friday morning. Fire trucks will lead the procession and a full color guard will greet her casket and deliver her to the burial site.
Mass will be held at 10 a.m. at St. Mary. The public is invited to attend.
"The passion and desire that she had to improve fire and EMS service are the truly remarkable traits that made Audrey uniquely special. It is through her grace that Wayne County truly is a better and safer place for us all to live and work in," said Dallas Terrell, director of the Wayne County Regional Training Facility.
In life, Beaverson shied away from such attention. She turned down the nomination for the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce's Wall of Fame Award for years before accepting the honor in 2017. She was often referred to as a "quiet philanthropist."
"No fanfare. No sweat!" her nephew Lynn Ratzel said. "At the end of the day, she could tell herself that she helped someone else. That was all she needed."
Beaverson grew up during the Great Depression in Wooster with her parents and three brothers. They had one cow, three or four chickens, and a small garden to sustain the family of six.
She married Ken Beaverson in 1952. He worked as a truck driver, and she would often accompany him on his trips, sometimes taking over the wheel when he got tired. The couple eventually saved enough money to buy three semi-trucks. Ken drove and managed the other drivers while Beaverson handled the books.
They purchased Wooster Motor Ways in 1975 and continued to grow the business through the 1980s. Three years after her husband's untimely death in 1984, she sold Wooster Motor Ways to Paul E. Williams and used the proceeds to establish the Beaverson Foundation Fund to carry on Ken's giving spirit.
Beaverson never watched much television, but her viewing of the evening news prompted some of her most meaningful contributions. She worked to put an automated external defibrillator (AED) in every Wayne County school after seeing reports of athletes and spectators at high school sporting events who suffered from cardiac arrest.
"Audrey was a primary contributor to seeing that every school, church and law enforcement vehicle in Wayne County was equipped with an AED," Terrell said. "Several of which have already contributed to saving the life of patients in cardiac arrest."
Her concern for firefighters and the dangers they face daily led her to reach out to the first responders in person to learn more about their challenges. She made the regional training facility one of her biggest priorities and would sometimes come to have lunch with the participants during their weekend classes.
"Audrey was an honorary member of the Wayne County Fire and Rescue Association as well as being an honorary member to many fire departments within Wayne County," Terrell said. "The number of lives saved because of Audrey's contributions is immeasurable, but her love of helping others was something that everyone close to her could always see."
Another of Beaverson's biggest contributions was the Beaverson EMS Institute at Wooster Community Hospital, established nearly 30 years ago. Bill Sheron, president and CEO of the hospital, referred to the facility as a model for community support for equipping and training emergency medical technicians and paramedics in the county.
"Audrey was deeply committed to this program and to making sure our emergency providers had the best training and education possible," Sheron said. "When we reviewed the activities of the institute each year, Audrey always wanted to make sure that no one was left out, and that EMS providers had what they needed."
She helped local EMTs pay for their training and continuing education courses. She also helped purchase upgraded equipment.
So private was Beaverson that Ratzel only recently learned the story of her driving her husband's truck when he first started the business. Ken Beaverson also enjoyed flying and encouraged Audrey Beaverson to get her pilot's license in case something happened to him while they were in the air.
Trucks and airplanes weren't the only things she could drive. She also drove farm tractors.
"She was so proud of that," Ratzel said of his aunt's secret talents.
The years she spent visiting her older brother Al and his wife in New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras, inspired Beaverson to bring a little of the celebration back to Wooster in the event of Wooster Arts Jazz Festival. She even had the opportunity to ride a float in a Mardi Gras parade in The Big Easy.
Beaverson would spend every Tuesday going for walks at different area parks with Ratzel. They would take turns buying each other lunch.
In the end, Ratzel and Beaverson's sister-in-law Judy tried to make Beaverson as comfortable as possible. Her good friends Jack Gant and J.C. Johnston III, also her longtime attorney, were always there to lend a helping hand and guidance whenever asked during the difficult times.
"If I had two words to describe my aunt, it would be class and genuine. She was sincere, honest and truthful," Ratzel said. "She was my rock."
©2019 The Daily Record, Wooster, Ohio