John Edgar Beam passed away March 26, 2019 from ALS in Lawrence, Kansas. He was born on April 16, 1936, in Ottawa, Kansas, to Burl and Eileen Beam.
John received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Kansas, his master’s of science degree in physics from Harvard University and his doctorate in physics from the University of Wisconsin. He married Grace Hiebert on Dec. 30, 1959. John taught physics at Bellaire Senior High School in Houston for 25 years until he retired in 2001. After retirement he and Grace moved to Lawrence, Kansas.
Those are the facts of John, but that doesn’t really paint the picture of the man who loved his family, his books, his piano, his Sudoku and his yogurt-and-toast breakfast. As a physics teacher, John was known for his high exacting standards. This, from his son, who worked very hard for a B in his course. John was the longtime advisor to Bellaire’s Mu Alpha Theta, a national mathematics honor society for high school. John won the 1995 Edith May Sliffe High School Award for Distinguished High School Mathematics Teaching awarded by the Mathematical Association of America.
John was a man of few words, but the ones he did use were often tinged with humor. John played the piano for fun. He could sight-read pretty much anything but had a soft spot for Scott Joplin. He was a hobbyist astronomer and volunteered at George Observatory at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. John was a reader. It was a rare moment to find him without a book or a magazine in his hand. He was a meticulous car packer. His wife had learned to step aside during the packing-the-car phase for road trips. John was loath to ask for help and would rather figure things out for himself. Those characteristics coupled with a distaste for the GPS made for adventurous car trips that invariably and happily end up in the right place.
Through his teaching and his family, John left a legacy of readers, thinkers and problem solvers. He is survived by wife Grace, daughters Elizabeth Kelly and Margaret Beam, son John Beam, eight grandchildren and sister Helen Bereiter.
In lieu of flowers, the family ask that donations be made to the ALS Association Mid-America Chapter.