Cover photo for Brenda Margreta Bean's Obituary
Brenda Margreta Bean Profile Photo
1945 Brenda 2017

Brenda Margreta Bean

July 3, 1945 — May 8, 2017

Brenda Bean was a champion for the arts.

Her work promoting the importance of arts education and her love of volunteering always gained notice.

“She often worked in the background, but I think her work was significant and well-regarded by people who were involved in the arts,” said her husband, Jerry Bean. “She was a quiet warrior, but a very effective one.”

In November, Bean was diagnosed with lung cancer and was given six months to live. She died Monday.

She was 71.

Brenda Bean was born July 3, 1945, in Huntington Park, where her father worked for Lockheed Aircraft Corp. during World War II. After the war, Bean’s family moved back to Galesburg, Illinois, and she began attending local schools.

She graduated with honors from Galesburg High School in 1963.

In 1967, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana, and later received a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.

It was while attending the University of Illinois that she met her husband of almost 50 years, Jerry Bean, during a party. Like any relationship, he said, it took time to build. But the couple had four dates in two weeks, so he knew there was a connection.

Bean skipped her graduation ceremony to marry Jerry on May 28, 1967 — the only weekend he had available before leaving for basic training in the Army at Fort Lewis, Washington.

She began teaching in Rockford, Illinois, in 1967 and gave birth to two sons, Scott and Eric, in 1972 and 1976, respectively.

The family moved from Rockford to Washington, D.C., in 1981 when Jerry began working for the Gannett Co.’s USA Today.

Two years later, the couple moved to Redlands and started volunteering through arts-based organizations, from the Redlands and San Bernardino symphonies to the Redlands Festival of Arts, which Jerry co-founded.

It was in 1987 when her husband launched Century Group Newspapers, a cluster of community newspapers, that Brenda returned to the classroom.

“You know, starting your own business is risky. And that’s when she told me that maybe it was time for her to go back to work,” Jerry said with a chuckle.

She began working with handicapped students at Nan Sanders Elementary School in Perris, before becoming a special education resource specialist two years later. In 2008, she was named Teacher of the Year at Nan Sanders Elementary, and was also a member of the board of directors of the California Association of Resource Specialists.

She retired in 2009 after 30 years.

“I used to tell people that (Brenda) would ‘fly to Perris’ every day. And if you saw the drive you’d understand that,” Jerry said. “But that’s a poor district and there are kids who would come into the school that had never been identified for help.

“I would think you could call her a ‘master teacher’ because she would get letters from parents saying, ‘I never thought my son would be able to read. And now he actually enjoys reading. Thank you, Mrs. Bean.’ She used to get those all the time, and she still has some students who knew her in elementary school who send her Christmas cards and such after all of these years.”

Bean stayed busy after retiring by joining the boards of the Redlands Community Music Association — now known as the Redlands Bowl Performing Arts — and the YMCA of the East Valley. She was also a member of PEO Chapter PK.

As a pioneer for arts-based education, Brenda Bean served on the founding board of the Redlands Educational Partnership Foundation, where she helped to develop criteria for grants the nonprofit awards to teachers, and helped organize the group’s outstanding teacher of the year award.

She is also credited for creating the Fun Learning After School Hours program at Smiley Elementary School, a program that officers enrichment activities for students, her family said.

In February, Redlands Bowl Performing Arts named Brenda and Jerry its 2017 Heroes of the Arts, an honor the couple was recognized for on Feb. 23 at the nonprofit’s annual Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival announcement dinner at the Redlands Country Club.

The award is given to those in the community who have contributed to the arts in a significant way, according to the organization.

“Brenda was an outstanding board member and steadfast volunteer for our children’s programs,” said Beverly Noerr, executive director of the Redlands Bowl. “She had strong opinions and a great sense of humor. She encouraged me both personally and professionally, and I am forever grateful to her for that. The Bowl family will miss her greatly.”

Bean and her husband enjoyed traveling. Jerry Bean said his wife would often make the travel plans whenever the idea popped up. In October 2005, in Paris on top of the Eiffel Tower, the couple celebrated the 50th anniversary of the day they met.

Bean also enjoyed playing with her grandkids and playing card games — bridge was a favorite. She also enjoyed listening to Christian-based music. Jerry Bean recalled traveling to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest to hear “The Voice” winner Jordan Smith perform. The couple arrived an hour early so they could be in the front row, he said.

Bean is preceded in death by her parents, Leonard and Florence Carlson of Galesburg, Illinois.

Aside from her husband, she is also survived by sons Scott of Newbury Park and Eric of Redlands; brother Steve of Madison, Wisconsin; and two grandchildren, Sarah, 15, and Emily, 11, of Newbury Park.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made in Bean’s name to LifeHouse Theater, 1135 N. Church St., Redlands, CA 92374; The Friends of the Library Literacy Program, c/o A.K. Smiley Public Library, 125 W. Vine St., Redlands, CA 92373; or Micah House, c/o Trinity Church, 1551 Reservoir Road, Redlands, CA 92374.

Services for Bean will be held 11 a.m. May 20 at First Lutheran Church, 1207 W. Cypress Ave. in Redlands.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Brenda Margreta Bean, please visit our flower store.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

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