The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 24, 2012

Reaching out to others: Arbutus resident sends hundreds of Christmas cards

— Leaning back in her easy chair, 84-year-old Reva Jane Beadling sorts through a stack of Christmas cards in the “office” corner of the Arbutus Park Manor room she has called home for about two years.

Although the shared room has cheery decorations and a stack of books expressing the former schoolteacher’s active personality, Beadling admits it has been an adjustment.

She and her late husband, Wesley Beadling, spent much of their married life in a 20-room Victorian home in Scottdale, Westmoreland County. The home included an office where Wesley operated his dental practice, with Reva Jane as his dental assistant. It’s also where they raised three daughters.

In retirement, she moved to a five-room house in Treasure Lake, outside DuBois, for a few years.

“Arbutus was not in my plans,” Beadling said.

“I heard a minister whose message was about uncharted places in our lives. I told him, ‘I am in an uncharted place.’ ”

One thing that has remained on course, however, is Beadling’s affection for reaching out to family, friends and old acquaintances at the holidays.

From her nursing home room, she sent out about 325 Christmas cards, reaching all across the country.

“That’s a little less this year,” she said. “I’ve been trying to tear off a few every year. We got married in 1950, I’ve been doing it ever since.”

The list of recipients represent a biography of the compassionate woman’s life. In addition to family, there are friends and neighbors from the years in Scottdale and Treasure Lake. A few neighbors and fellow snowbirds still keep in touch from 13 winters she and her husband spent in Florida.

There are those she has gotten to know in Johnstown, and even some high school classmates and college friends from her years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania – back when it was Indiana State Teachers College.

“I enjoy being in touch with these people,” she said. “I am still interested in them, or I wouldn’t send them a card.”

Many still send her cards as well, but it is not a requirement to stay on her list.

The list is carefully printed in a Christmas card ledger book, with a column for names and addresses, and columns for “sent” and “received.” The book she’s using now has space for five more years.

“Then I’ll get a new one,” Beadling said, looking forward to her 90th Christmas.

“The names are written in ink,” she continued. “But the addresses are written in pencil because they change.”

Some of the cards reaching her inbox include annual holiday letters recapping the year of family events, achievements and milestones.

Although she enjoys hearing about trips, graduations, new grandchildren and promotions, she no longer includes a letter with her cards.

“I don’t have a lot going on in my life,” she said.

Christmas cards are just one part of Beadling’s connection to the people in her life. Throughout the year, she continues her lifelong practice of dropping cards in the mail to help lift spirits. Sympathy, birthday, anniversary and get well cards are placed on her bed tray several times a week. Arbutus staff see that they get sent out in the mail.

She has another address book with significant birthdays and anniversaries that was put together by her “No. 1 son-in-love,” she said.

“This is my ministry here: These boxes of cards,” Beadling said, pointing to a stack beside the chair.

It came as some relief after moving into the nursing home’s Doerr Wing to learn it would still be possible to send cards.

“I think it’s encouraging to know other people are sympathizing and praying for them,” she said.

 “People come to me and say, ‘Pray for me,’ or someone else. I put them on my list. Then I see if I can take them off my list, too.”

There were, no doubt, a few cards in the mail after the recent birth of her second great-grandchild. He is her first boy, after three daughters, five granddaughters and a great-granddaughter.

“The payoff was she named him Wesley Alexander after the two grandfathers,” Beadling said.

“It sounds like something out of royalty. Everybody was all excited about having a boy.”

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