Fernandina mourns the loss of long time resident Joan Bean

April 28, 2020

Editor’s Note:  We mourn the loss of Joan Bean.   Through her years as a dance instructor,  she welcomed  hundreds of students with a  friendly smile and upbeat personality.  She was much loved!  Over the years, Joan witnessed our sleepy little town more than double its population.   With growth comes change and Joan spoke up with charm when our changing landscape was too much for her to bear.  We send our condolences to the entire Bean Family.  Your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother will be missed. 

Joan D. Bean
March 25, 1926 – April 22, 2020 Age: 94

Joan D Bean
Photo courtesy of Stephan R. Leimberg

Mrs. Joan D. Bean, 94 of Fernandina Beach, FL passed away on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at Baptist Medical Center-Nassau.

Every true story has a beginning and end, so this is an absolutely true story.

Mrs. Bean’s story starts March 25, 1926 as Joan was born and raised in Bowling Green, KY by Joe and Annie Dienes. She was the only child of parents who worked for a railroad shipping service, her father as an agent and her mother as a cashier. She attended Catholic schools through eighth grade. She started dancing at age 4.

She and husband-to-be Red Bean met in college. He grew up with one brother in the mountains of Kentucky. A World War II survivor of the Normandy invasion with a purple heart to his credit, he had returned to finish his studies under the GI Bill and a football scholarship.

Mrs. Bean arrived in Fernandina in 1950 when her husband, Lewis “Red” Bean, accepted a teaching position at the local high school. Both were graduates of Western Kentucky State College with degrees in education. He specialized in industrial arts, and she taught physical education. They arrived with three babies in diapers, an 18-month-old daughter and 4-month-old twin boys. The family rented a vacation cottage on the beach that had no hot water for $50 a month. They had no phone and no car. Humble as it was, the new lifestyle felt exotic because the ocean and Florida were new experiences. Her ninth and last child was born when she was in her 40s. The family was now complete with two daughters and seven sons.

Throughout the years of raising a family, Bean continued to offer dance instruction out of her home to generations of the community’s youth. It was not until her husband retired from teaching that she got her own studio. One of Red Bean’s first retirement projects was to build it on a vacant lot on North Third Street. The school still operates in the same building at the same location today. Thus, she officially became a business owner at the age of 60. It was then that Ms. Bean joined the Chamber of Commerce and was introduced to community activism.

Mrs. Bean’s husband “Red” died when he was age 64, before the two of them got to fulfill their retirement plans together. Her second marriage was to Wayne Gilbert, whom she met at a high school reunion back in Kentucky. In their short three-year marriage, they traveled to Portugal, Italy, and Greece and made the rounds of U.S. national parks.

As for widowhood, Joan acknowledged it changes life in major ways. “Nothing is spontaneous anymore,” she said. “You have to make plans to do things … Life can be fun, but you have to get off your ass. Nothing is going to happen unless you make it happen.” “Water aerobics has been my fountain of youth,” she declared. Joan remained active in St. Michael Catholic Church’s Guild and the Amelia Island Museum of History. She participated in weekly trivia matches with friends. While younger instructors teach at the studio these days, Ms. Bean would occasionally put on her ballet slippers to review dance positions with 5-year-olds.

Though she had a sharp recollection of her family history and was passionate about preserving what makes Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island special to residents and tourists alike, Joan Bean lived in the here and now. Perhaps that is the ultimate secret to staying young at heart. Not surprising, is her advice to the upcoming generation: “This is your world. Take an interest in what’s going on around you.”

Ms. Bean is survived by daughter Diane Patchen and husband Don; son Mark and wife Sherry; son Mason and wife Marilyn; daughter Drue Ashwell and husband Steve; son Gary and wife Sally; son David and wife Karen; son Steve and wife Kay; son Warren and wife Lucretia; and son Aaron and wife Abby. Joan had a total of 9 children, 16 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.

Due to the COVID19 virus graveside funeral services were held for her immediate family where she was laid to rest beside her husband at Bosque Bello Cemetery. Her family is planning to celebrate and remember her life with the community at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in the future.

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Angie Hunt
Angie Hunt (@guest_57429)
3 years ago

She was a wonderful woman and will be missed.

Margo Story
Margo Story (@guest_57444)
3 years ago

Ms. Bean was a wonderful woman who will be dearly missed……may the perpetual light shine upon her.

Margaret Kirkland
Margaret Kirkland (@guest_57446)
3 years ago

Mrs. Bean was a remarkable individual. She spoke out frequently on the importance of protecting our environment, and was very supportive of efforts to save our tree canopy on the island. For this reason, Amelia Tree Conservancy awarded her the Voice of the Island award at the annual business meeting on Nov. 9, 2017. We also plan to plant a tree in her honor next winter. We will miss her greatly.

emmy lou sorum
emmy lou sorum (@guest_57449)
3 years ago

Am proud to be able to call her my friend…she was one in a million…She was also a member of the Boa Babes, a Red Hat group. she was always smiling, and, oh, my all her jokes…She was one amazing woman…will miss her so much…