News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Obituaries

July 8, 2012

Beatrice Blaha Van Til

Beatrice Blaha Van Til passed away in peace at her home in Terre Haute, Ind., on July 2, 2012, at the age of 100. She was born August 23, 1911, to William and Rose Blaha in Corona, N.Y.. Bee, as she was known to so many, is survived by one daughter, Barbara Nichols and her husband Robert, of Georgetown, S.C., two sons, Jon, of Budapest, Hungary, and Seelyville, Ind., and Roy and his wife Linda of Vienna, Maine; six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Her children became educators in state universities and public schools. Bee’s husband, William Van Til, a nationally known educator, author, and retired professor from Indiana State University, died in 2006. At the time of his passing, they had been happily married for over 70 years.

Bee became a teacher in New York City at the age of eighteen after graduation from Jamaica Training School for Teachers. She earned a B.A. degree from Hunter College in 1934 and she was awarded an M.A. in Early Childhood Development by The Ohio State University in 1942.  While primarily a homemaker, she also took great pride in editing most of her husband’s professional and literary publications.  With him she traveled widely, including a 900-mile kayak trip down the Danube River in 1937, enjoying a sabbatical in Europe with their children in 1954, and venturing around the world in 1974. Wherever Bee would travel, she always practiced the art of “meeting people halfway” in order to open up friendly dialogue.  Her interest in the rainbow of people and cultures across America and across the oceans was exceptional and dear to her sense of self.  She was a complete person of highest aspirations, the paragon of the twentieth century woman.   

While living in Nashville, Tenn., Bee worked toward school desegregation following the Supreme Court Decision of 1954. She was an actively idealistic member of the League of Women Voters for over 50 years. Other than her devotion to her family, Bee’s main interest was the improvement of public education. She served diligently on the School Board in Mountain Lakes, N.J., during the sixties. In the 1970’s she served selflessly on an Advisory Committee to the Vigo County Schools in Indiana.  She was a devout member of Holy Rosary Parish in Seelyville, and later of Mary Margaret Parish in Terre Haute.

A memorial service to celebrate her wonderful life will be held at a time to be announced later.

Bee will be remembered by all who knew her as an engagingly bright, enthusiastic, competent and compassionate woman who knew how to take care of a sick child, repair a broken machine, manage a busy household, sew a beautiful dress, landscape a large property, enjoy a good laugh, prepare a delicious feast, host a joyful party, and reach out to friends and family in need with healing wisdom and sincere concern. She was a woman who cared very deeply about the broader society around her and took actions on a personal and community level to make our world a better place. Bee embraced a long and joyous century of adventure and experience  and will be missed by all who knew and treasured her. Despite having witnessed so much of the violence of the last century, she believed in the goodness of humanity and remained at heart, an optimist. Surely her heartfelt legacy of generosity and love will echo for generations to come through the lives of those she has touched and inspired in countless ways.

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