We recently learned that John Beer, one of the founders of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty, died on October 2, 2021. John Beer was a dedicated activist who made significant contributions to peace and justice during his 94 years. May he rest in peace. Thank you to another founder, Sally Milbury-Steen, who wrote the following eulogy for John and his wife Fran, who also worked for peace and justice and who died earlier this year:
Frances Nicholson Beer and John J. Beer
Frances Nicholson Beer, 90, died on March 25th, 2021, in Kennett Square, PA a couple of days after suffering a brain bleed during a fall in the kitchen of her cottage at the Kendal retirement community in Kennett Square, PA. She and her husband John moved to Newark, DE in 1961 when John joined the faculty of the History Department at the University of Delaware. Initially, he taught European history with an emphasis on the history of science, technology, and chemistry, but later created and taught courses on Women in Science, The Atomic Age, and Gandhi. They lived in Newark, DE for 41 years before moving to Kendal in 2002 where they joined John’s three siblings who were already living there.
John was one of the founders of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty which was started in 2002, a few weeks after the state had executed Steven Brian Pennell, a serial killer, on March 14. This was the first execution in 46 years, and John was among the group of twelve citizens who stood on the grounds of the Smyrna Correctional Center holding signs in opposition to capital punishment. He participated in similar vigils during the fifteen subsequent Delaware executions.
John and Fran Beer enjoyed raising their children: Jennifer, Sandy, Michael, and Matthew in Newark, and were active in campus and community life. They were a founding family of the Newark Friends Meeting in the early 1960’s and held many leadership positions in the meeting as well as in Western Quarterly Meeting and the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
Fran was a reliable anchor in the alto section of community choruses, especially the University of Delaware’s Schola Cantorum. She provided decade-long leadership as chair of the committee which published Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal in 1996. She especially championed new hymns written by Quaker composers and lyricists. One of her favorite lyricists was Roberta Bard Ruby and she especially liked her hymn, “Eternal and Infinite Source of All Grace.” Its final verse is most appropriate for Fran who left us first and for John who died at the age of 94 on October 6, 2021:
From thee comes our birth and all life soaring free.
Our aging and dying returns us to thee.
All cycles and seasons flow by thy commands.
In life and in death we are still in thy hands.
We are thankful for John and Fran who worked and witnessed for peace and justice throughout their long lives and touched so many of our lives in the process. We loved them deeply and miss them, but are grateful that they are now reunited in perfect peace and much-earned eternal rest.