Leslie Beebe loved reading.
At an early age, her passion for books and her curiosity were nurtured by her parents, George Jay and Kathleen Mina (Graham) Beebe.
Growing up between San Diego, where she was born, and Waverly, where her mom and dad hailed from, Leslie relished in the experience of spending her summers in her parents’ hometown.
There, surrounded with family love, including from her maternal grandfather, Donald C. Graham, the little girl thrived in her explorations of life turning the pages of books.
In Waverly, Leslie rode her bicycle to the Waverly Public Library, where she filled her basket with books for the day.
She would then go back home, devoured the stories they told, and return the next day or the day after for more.
That unquenchable thirst for learning Leslie exhibited as a child took her on a life journey as an adult.
She wrote poetry and prose, for publication and pleasure, earned a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Conflict Resolution from San Francisco State University, and traveled the 48 contiguous states, Europe and Mexico, among other adventures.
When she passed away unexpectedly last year, at the age of 48, her parents, her sister Lauren, and her family, deeply grieved her untimely departure.
In a eulogy at the service at Kaiser Corson in Waverly, Sally Thorson, a longtime family friend who lived next door to the Beebes and watched Leslie during those summers read Leslie’s magnum opus, “Hawkeye Summer.” (Read the poem in a sidebar.)
On Friday, another person who knew Leslie well, Sue Van Hemert, the recently retired children’s librarian, read the poem again.
The occasion was a generous donation of $10,000 in Leslie’s name by the Beebe family to a future library project.
Van Hemert stood by a special bench, called “Girl Reading to Cat,” which had just been installed in the foyer of the library. The work of art features a small girl holding an open book, her feet dangling, and a big cat, its head turned to the girl, listening attentively.
On the back of the bench a small plaque displays these lines from Leslie’s poem:
“As a little girl I spent my summers
in a magical land.
Iowa summers are like Narnia
You can only go there if you are a child
At some point
The wardrobe closes.”
Next to the poem is a picture of a 10-year-old Leslie, taken in 1982, ready to dive into the Waverly Municipal Pool from a springboard. When taken, it was just a picture capturing a joyful moment. Considered today, the symbolizes the dive of a young girl into the depths of life.
Listening to the poem on Friday was Sarah Meyer-Reyerson, the library director, who expressed deep gratitude for the gift.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Leslie’s family could not travel to town for a commemorative service, but thanks to technology, both George and Kathleen attended the brief ceremony through Zoom, along with members of the library board.
The library is closed to the public because of the pandemic and both Van Hemert and Meyer-Reyerson, along with the videographer and this writer, wore facial coverings.
Despite the distance, the Beebes were deeply moved by the ceremony, as it fit their daughter’s character and expressed her love for books.
“We wanted to give something back to the library because Leslie loved to go there and the staff was so helpful and encouraging,” George Beebe told Waverly Newspapers afterwards. “Waverly was such a magical place for her.
“We love the bench and hope it gets a lot of use by young readers.”