Remembering Dr. Al Beasley

Dr. Albert Beasley — a longtime and much-loved pediatrician, educator, civic volunteer, and pioneering black physician — died yesterday at Norwalk Hospital, 2 weeks after being admitted following a fall at home. He was 98 years old.

Almost exactly 2 years ago — on June 20, 2018 — “06880” honored Dr. Beasley as an Unsung Hero. I wrote:

Last week, Staples Tuition Grants handed out over $300,000 in scholarships to more than 100 graduating seniors, and high school alums already in college.

It was a warm, wonderful evening — a celebration of very hard work by the recipients, as well as all who make the grants possible.

But the highlight may have been the keynote speech, by Dr. Albert Beasley.

Speaking without notes — and without missing a beat — the 96-year-old retired pediatrician talked about the importance of STG, and what it means to him personally. One of the oldest named awards — initiated 45 years ago — honors his late wife and fellow pediatrician, Dr. Jean Beasley.

After the Staples Tuition Grants ceremony, pediatrician Dr. Albert Beasley and his wife Janet (3rd and 4th from left) posed with 4 former patients (from left): Nicole Greenberg Donovan, Dan Woog, Dan Donovan and Lynn Untermeyer Miller. (Photo/Paddy Donovan)

In his 65 years in Westport, Al Beasley has watched the town grow from a small artists’ colony, through the baby boom, into a suburb filled with businessmen and Wall Street executives.

But he has seen it all through a unique perspective, and with a background different from most people who live here. He shared some of that last week too, in his low-key but inspiring way.

Al’s grandfather, a Harvard-educated Boston attorney, helped found the NAACP.  Al’s father also went to Harvard – and became a doctor.  His mother graduated from Radcliffe. Those were proud accomplishments, in an era when educational opportunities for black men and women were limited.

Al’s parents wanted him to have a well-rounded education. He got one, at the Walden School and Columbia  College. He married a high school friend, Jean.  Both earned medical degrees – Al from New York University. Both became pediatricians.

As a captain in the Air Force during the Korean War – based in Houston — Al first experienced overt prejudice. But he persevered, and in 1953 the Beasleys moved to Westport. He wanted his children to experience the same freedom he’d found at the Walden School. The Beasleys rented a home on 11 acres, for $90 a month. They were one of only 5 or so black families in town.

They bought land from a fellow physician, Mal Beinfield. The Beasleys had trouble getting a mortgage – the banks’ excuse was “they did not like contemporary dwellings.” But Westport Bank & Trust Company president Einar Anderson said to the Beasleys’ request for $20,000: “There’s no problem.  Let us know when you want it.”

At the 2014 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony, Dr. Al Beasley posed with Megumi Asada, a graduating senior who received the Dr. Jean Beasley Memorial Award. Megumi was considering a career in medicine.

In addition to his professional accomplishments – private practice as a pediatrician; co-founder of Willows Pediatrics; associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, and an emeritus staff member at Norwalk Hospital – Al immersed himself in community work.

He was a pediatrician for the Intercommunity Camp; a member of the Selectman’s Committee for Youth and Human Services; a board of directors member for the United Way; member of the scholar selection committee of A Better Chance of Westport; trustee of Earthplace, where he organized the Green Earth series on  health and the environment.

Al’s wife Jean died in 1973.  Six years later he married Janet, a native of Berlin and a survivor of a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

Al says:  “When Jean and I moved to Westport in 1953, it was a magical town. It opened its arms to us, welcomed us, and made us feel special.”

Al adds:  “My birth certificate said ‘colored.’  Then the preferred term changed to ‘Negro.’  Later it was ‘black,’ then ‘African American.’  I am a man of color, but I like to be accepted for what I have to offer.  The town has done exactly that.”

Looking back on his career, Al says,“I’m an activist.  I tried to give my utmost to the community, and I think the community appreciates that.  This is a wonderful town.  I thank everyone who entrusted their most precious commodities – their infants, their children and their young people – to me.”

And we thank Dr. Al Beasley, this week’s Unsung — but Very Deserving — Longtime Hero.

Dr. Beasley is survived by his son Scott, and daughter Jean. He was predeceased by his first wife, Dr. Jean Beasley, and his second wife, Janet Beasley.

34 responses to “Remembering Dr. Al Beasley

  1. Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

    A special man.

    • When Nicole and I brought our first born, Meghan, to see Dr, Beasley, he said; “Well, this is a first for me, two of my babies bringing in their baby.” I am guessing he saw a lot of firsts in his life, so that was a pretty special moment for us. He was a fantastic man in so many ways.

  2. Diane Silfen

    A life well lived! A very special person!

    • Jeff Arciola

      I was so thankful for Having Dr Beasley as my pediatrician. What a special man and a great wonderful family.

  3. A truly special and inspiring man & pediatrician…♥️

  4. I’m so sorry to read that Al Beasley has passed away. He was such a kind, loving, humane and extraordinary man. He and Janet were good friends to me for many years. Very, very special people. God bless you, Al. You done good.

  5. Peter Nathan

    Dan:

    To which organization can contributions in Al’s name be made? Just had lunch with him about 3 months ago (before the quarantine). He was our pediatrician from 1959 when we moved to Westport.

    Peter W. Nathan
    70 Terra Nova Circle
    Westport, CT 06880-4749
    Tel: (203) 227-8343
    Fax: (203) 222-8335
    Mobile: (203) 515-1224
    email: peter@nathanct.com

    From: 06880
    Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2020 9:54 AM
    To: Peter Nathan
    Subject: [New post] Remembering Dr. Al Beasley

    Dan Woog posted: “Dr. Albert Beasley — a longtime and much-loved pediatrician, educator, civic volunteer, and pioneering black physician — died yesterday at Norwalk Hospital, 2 weeks after being admitted following a fall at home. He was 98 years old. Almost exactly 2”
    Respond to this post by replying above this line

    New post on 06880

    [http://s0.wp.com/i/emails/blavatar.png]

    Remembering Dr. Al Beasley
    by Dan Woog

    Dr. Albert Beasley — a longtime and much-loved pediatrician, educator, civic volunteer, and pioneering black physician — died yesterday at Norwalk Hospital, 2 weeks after being admitted following a fall at home. He was 98 years old.

    Almost exactly 2 years ago —

  6. We were all very fortunate to have him and his family as a long time residents in the community!

  7. Kathie Bennewitz

    Simply heartbroken to hear this news. I had the fortunate opportunity to spend some time with him at his Westport home before he moved to a care facility. He was as sharp as ever. The occasion was donating several beloved works by Constance Kiermaier that had hung in his original Willows Pediatrics office to The Westport Public Art Collections. We will honor his gift more fully once Covid restrictions lift. A true loss for the town in so many ways.

  8. Roseann Spengler

    Dr. Al was our pediatrician. Loved that man!!

  9. Don Willmott

    The best of the best. He was our family doctor–including house calls–for almost 30 years. So many memories of his very chilly office, which felt even chillier when you were sitting there in your underwear! The last time I visited, I was probably far too old to be seeing a pediatrician, but it didn’t matter to him!

    • Sally Kellogg

      Was your dad the Al Willmott? If so, I remember both your mom & dad…last time I saw your mom was at The Patterson Club playing tennis. Al Wilmottt and I’m having a brain cramp about your Mom’s name. My mother was Sally Kellogg Deegan and she worked with him professionally, and they all became great pals…it was the “Mad Men” era. If not … oh well, consider it a COVID moment.

  10. Sarah K. Hyams

    The Kaiser family moved to Westport in the fall of 1953. I was three, my sister was an infant. We were certainly among the Drs. Beasley’s first patients. When my brother came along a bit later, he too was under their care. My parents made sure we knew that they wanted to support these newcomers to town by choosing them as the family pediatrician. I can picture clearly the big white house they occupied across from Daybreak Nursery, as well as the contemporary they moved to later on. Also, the office they occupied before the Willows. And of course, there were many times when they made a house call (usually Dr. Al, I think), black bag in hand, dreaded hypodermic needle inside. As a child, the most notable thing about my doctors was that they were a pair, and both took care of me. I knew little of the history Dan W has provided. What a life, what a presence. My condolences to Scott and “Jeansie.”

  11. Pam Einarsen

    What a loss this is and what a great impact Dr. Beasley had on our town and what a pioneer he was to do the work to create and support so many institutions that made such a difference. He will be missed.

  12. Kristan Hamlin

    What an inspiring personal story! I am delighted that Dr. Beasley found Westport to be a wonderful and welcoming town in which to live. The town was blessed by his presence. He will be missed.

  13. Chip Stephens

    Doctor Beasley was a kind and gentle professional and was one of those Westport jewels or hero so often noted Dan’s articles. He came from a time when medicine was local, compassionate and practiced by MDs like Dr Beasley who knew each of his patients, went to their homes to diagnose and treat (House calls). He remained in 06680 and often spoke on topics to the local boards on issues he supported and could lend wisdom to. He will be more than missed he will be remembered for his kindness.

  14. Blessed to have had his care for my entire family growing up. An exceptional man who will be missed.

  15. Melinda Hemson

    I actually had Dr. Schiller and I was very attached to him as a child. I did not want to see anyone but him when I was sick or injured but on the occasions when he was not available Dr. Beasley always stepped in to make me feel more comfortable. He knew how much I adored and trusted Dr. Schiller and Dr. Beasley would go out of his way to put me at ease. I always knew he was a great man but I had no idea how accomplished he was.

  16. Susan Siegelaub Katz

    That was beautiful, Danny, thanks. What a wonderful man.

  17. Wendy Goldwyn Batteau

    Dr. Beasley was a wonderful man, an activist who made a difference, an inspiration. I hope that especially during these particularly difficult times we can all try to incorporate the values he lived out in our own actions.

  18. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    I,too, long-ago memories of Dr. Beasley’s house calls, at night, to our Weston house, early 1960’s.)..he

    I believe his son,Scott,and Jean were both in Staples Orchestra,with my brother,Jeff,mid-1960’s.

    We were all so fortunate to know this compassionate, wonderful family.

  19. Mike Joseph

    Dr. Beasley was our pediatrician too, from ’59 until us four Joseph siblings outgrew him in the late Sixties. A wonderful man and a caring, considerate doctor, who would visit us on Punchbowl Drive to address the occasional ear ache or flu. I have fond memories of playing in school bands with daughter Jean on flute (and me on very poor trombone renditions). RIP. A life well lived.

  20. We loved Dr. Beasley and his wife. I have fond memories of going to the pediatrician many many years ago. Al embodied everything a doctor should be. He was not only our family doctor, but became a good friend as well.

  21. Speaking also as a former client until my sibs & I outgrew him, everything said about Dr B being a good, kindhearted, gentle doc are true. The other biographical info just makes him seem more so😊 & was so very interesting. Thanks, Dan, for this wonderful salute to such a distinguished, loyal & generous Westporter. 98 years- I think they broke the mold…Glad to have known him.

  22. Sally Kellogg

    OMG! I remember Dr. Beasley — who would cover to Dr. Neil Lehbar. I remember Dr. Beinfield, who took care of our broken bones. And I went to Staples with Einer Anderson’s granddaughters. What an incredible story which I had no idea about…

  23. Michael Elliot

    Dr. Beasley was the kindest of souls. We will miss him dearly. Took care of all ten Elliot’s, always available, always willing to come to the house as necessary. Would stock my mother with throat cultures when strep came calling, because when one of us got it…..we all did. My pediatrician and that of my twin girls Meaghan and Molly (‘95). When he would look in on them in the Norwalk Hospital NNICU the nursing staff thought we must be royalty to have at the time the Director of Pediatrics caring for our babies. It was his way, always gentle, always calming, always caring. I remember at the Tuition Grants ceremony referenced above Dan Woog introducing him by saying “I am so thrilled to introduce my pediatrician, Dr. Al Beasley!” Heartfelt condolences to Scott and Jean, your dad was so loved and cherished and will be dearly missed by the hundreds he cared for as our town grew up.

  24. Holly Marshall Konrady

    I remember going to Dr. Beasley (meaning Al and Jean)- they were our family pediatricians. Both so soft spoken and gentle- they calmed even the most restless patient waiting for their immunizations. My mom, a journalist at Fairpress and my dad, a practicing psychiatrist in Westport, invited them to our home often. We loved their visits. 98 years old is such an amazing accomplishment in itself. He embodied everything that he was. I am lucky to have known him.

  25. Peter Gambaccini

    My mother and Jean Beasley were actually college classmates. I knew Dr. Albert Beasley as the father of one of my junior high and high school buddies who remained a friend through the college years. Dr. Beasley would actually converse with me, Scott’s friend, in a way that indicated his genuine interest in and care for what he heard. Believe me, that was rare among “fathers of friends” back then. Even though I hadn’t seen him in so long, I was glad to see (in your blog) how active and involved and smiling he remained in the town. An undeniably exceptional man whose impact was huge.

  26. Darin McKeever

    Thanks for this beautiful tribute and remembrance, Dan. Dr. Beasley was my pediatrician as well. I can still remember the kindness, humor, patience, and empathy he brought to every encounter – especially the time when I showed up complaining about a tiny blue LEGO piece that had gotten lodged and stuck inside my nose! Or when my mom whisked me to Willows Pediatrics after a wasp taught me that I was allergic to its sting. Amazing doctor and, clearly, an amazing man.

  27. Beautiful piece, Dan. Thanks so much for this. And through his life (and your words) we get a window into the magical town that once was much moreso it seems. I loved his dry delivery. Even stepping up onto his scale in my underwear he always made me laugh.

  28. Wonderful piece. Wonderful man. Scott: if you read this, I hope you’re well!

  29. George Barrett

    Thanks for this tribute Dan. Dr. Beasley always seemed present in my early life. He was a lovely man, with an exceedingly calm and and dignified presence. I know my parents loved him and Jean. (I’m pretty sure that he provided me with the “essence” of the Birds and the Bees, since I was the 4th child and I suspect my parents made the mistake of assuming my brothers would explain.)
    We was a treasure to Westport and will be missed.

  30. A remarkable person and a life well-lived. He was my pediatrician when we moved to Westport when I was 10. Always kind. He will be missed by family and community alike. My warm regards to Scott and Jean.

  31. Thomas W Nistico Sr

    I have known Dr.Beasley’s Family for over 60 years. His family was part of our community since day one. The Family has been an intregal part of the fabric of Westport as long as I can remember also being lifelong supporters of my Family’s business . AL wives Jean and Janet
    son and daughter Scott and Jean always were very low keyed but achieved brilliant accomplishments !
    I will always think fondly when I think of that family. They meant so very much to the town of Westport!