Born leader, strong willed, always on the go: Beverly Harding dies at 80

April 29, 2009
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesStrong willed and always on the go, a born leader devoted to the Santa Paula community, Beverly Harding, whose family has been a city fixture for generations, passed away April 19, 2009.Beverly died after a long illness at home surrounded by family. She was 80.“She was a fighter” right up to the end, said Beverly’s sister, Gail Stockton.“She didn’t go easily but Beverly was in her own home in a hospital bed right by the window” and passed as “the sun was blazing down and the sky was red and beautiful ... the sky lit up for her.”Born February 13, 1929, Beverly was a fourth-generation Santa Paulan (the first ancestors reached the city in 1867) whose parents, George and Mildred Harding, were highly respected members of the community.“I had a cousin around every corner,” Beverly used to say.A favorite story was how her fourth great-grandfather’s real name was Hardin: After his death from Civil War injuries his widow added the “G” to avoid identification with one of her husband’s cousins, the notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin.“A gunslinger but not a mudslinger!” Beverly used to say with glee.Beverly attended McKevett and Isbell Middle Schools and graduated with the Santa Paula High School Class of 1946.Beverly always said her high school years were among the best in her life and her experience was the driving force behind her devotion to the SPUHS Alumni Association, which she co-founded and served as President for decades.“We had been close friends since we were kids,” said Don Olivier.Beverly was much like her parents, “Very strong minded ... when she restarted the alumni association in 1982 we worked together with several others and made it a great success. She worked on that very hard the last few years.”The SPUHS-AA annually awards scholarships to graduating seniors, a program that Beverly was particularly devoted to.Beverly’s highly popular columns - more than 200 published in the Santa Paula Times - were written to show the accomplishments of SPHS grads.“All they have to do,” she said once, “is contact me and give me the information and then I’ll write ‘em up!”Her alumni work also included creating, maintaining and updating an astonishing computer database - some believe it holds more than 25,000 names - of SPHS graduates.“I don’t think anybody else could do what she did,” and Don said Beverly hoped to publish the SPUHS biographies in book form.Beverly’s great-grandfather the Rev. James Stewart built the First Christian Church, completed in 1900.“Her family did most of the work on the church which is a very substantial building ... and that’s how Beverly was, very substantial and strong minded.”When Beverly’s longtime companion Marvin LaBrot, whom she graduated with in 1946, was terminally ill, Beverly defied the rules of the convalescent hospital and would sneak in his beloved dog, Duke for clandestine visits.Marvin died in 2004 and although philosophical Beverly never stopped missing him.“Oh, she was very strong minded,” said Don. “You couldn’t change her mind if you tried ... it’s a good trait actually.”Cecil Preciado first met Beverly in kindergarten: “I’ve known her since way back ... Beverly, being an office manager for Kodak, was very skilled, very, very efficient. She had a lot of responsibility but she handled it well.”
A “No nonsense type of girl you might make a comment and she’d come right back to you,” a trait that Cecil said he never found to be a problem.Studying and preserving the family history was a lifelong priority of Beverly’s: “That was her big thing ... she’d say ‘I don’t want to die because I have so much to do.’ We’ve lost,” Cecil added, “a big, big history buff.”Every year for her birthday Beverly traveled to Hawaii and she loved and mastered golf, playing regularly until about two years ago.When she retired after a long career with Eastman Kodak Beverly sold her Glendale home and moved back to Santa Paula to care for her father.After George’s death Beverly embarked on building a hillside home wherevisitors were often startled when they came upon two mannequins dressed in her late parents’ clothing.Don said, “Beverly had a tremendous amount of antiques, many, many family heirlooms” from several generations.He last spoke to Beverly a week before her passing: “I invited her to our (Don and wife Velma’s) anniversary party. She said she would make it if she could but I knew she was too weak to come to the party.”It was just one example of the fierce loyalty Beverly felt for her many, many friends.“And we’re all going to miss her ... “ said Don.Although she always claimed that while a student at SPHS “I majored in fun!” Beverly later graduated from Colorado Women’s College in Denver - her choice due to its curriculum including flying, skiing, golf and modern dance - where she made numerous lifelong friends.Beverly was highly active in a variety of organizations ranging from longtime leadership of the Santa Paula Ebell Club, the George Harding Park Advisory Committee to the local chapter and Tri-County district of the Daughters of the American Revolution.“We knew each other all through school” and Wayne Allee said his strongest memory of Beverly is “how strong she was. She was dedicated to the alumni association and her hardheadedness in the way it was run, well, she wanted to make darn sure it was done right.”Wayne served on the alumni board for a number of years and said that although he and Beverly at times “Butted heads, we always came together and it was always done in the end ... even if it was the way Beverly wanted it.”Married for 11 years to a traveling salesman - “I’m sure all the traveling salesmen jokes were written about him!” she’d say - Beverly said the divorce was more traumatic then the marriage as her ex-husband “Contacted me between each of his subsequent marriages ... I was quite relieved years later when his aunt informed me he had died with wife No. 15.”Selected the Grand Marshal of the 2004 Optimist Club Christmas Parade, Beverly, whose father and grandfather had served as Fire Department Chiefs, led the parade riding in the traditional convertible. Wearing of course SPHS Cardinal red and white, Beverly showed up again at the end of the parade riding on a fire engine.Beverly was honored as a Santa Paula Woman of History in 2000 and much of her biography centered on her family’s deep, impressive Glen City roots.“When I was asked,” she said, “I was stunned. Then I got to thinking: I am a woman of Santa Paula history.”Modest Beverly probably never let the thought enter her mind that in her lifetime she was not only a woman of Santa Paula history, but in the strong tradition of those before her a vital component of the city’s history itself.Beverly was determined to live to be 100, but as she said “1929 - 2029 ... it’s how you live your dash that counts.”Described as an extraordinary and much-loved family matriarch who will be missed intensely, Beverly is survived by sisters: Barbara Pitts of Sparks, Nevada, and Gail Stockton of San Diego, and various nieces and nephews as well as grandnieces and nephews.Memorial contributions in Beverly’s name can be made to the SPUHS Alumni Association Scholarship Program, P.O. Box 6, Santa Paula, CA 93061.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.