Our previous tribute articles have been about family members, preachers, teachers, missionaries, and mentors. Most of them were professional ministers for a good portion of their adult lives. We do well to pay tribute to those people that have served in ministry full-time. We would be remiss though if we only focused on those that pastored churches, planted new works around the globe, or taught in college classrooms. Most of us have not done those things. The majority of us are laypeople – serving and working in our local church body while also maintaining full-time employment in the secular world. With that in mind, I could think of no one I wanted to write about more than Roy Beem.
Roy Beem graduated from high school in 1960. After that he served in the military for two years. He was saved after his military service and enrolled at Welch College (FWBBC back then) in 1965. He graduated from Belmont University in 1970 with a teaching degree.
In what was one of the most foundational moments of his life, he visited Cofer’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in 1967. He found his church home and his future wife on that visit. He married Laura later that year and September 1st would have been their 50th wedding anniversary. (Laura went home to be with the Lord a few years ago.)
Roy was never on staff at the church and he was never a preacher or minister. That did not stop him from serving the Lord in any capacity he could. He was an usher – probably for his entire time at Cofer’s. He was a trustee. An assistant Sunday school superintendent. A Sunday school teacher. A nursery worker. He mowed the grass and cleaned the building for some time as well. Roy was a servant. He worked hard and he worked with joy in all his time at Cofer’s.
During those 50 years at Cofer’s Chapel, Roy was an inner-city elementary school teacher for 25 of them. After he retired from teaching, he started working at Welch College – where he worked full-time for 11 years and 3 years part-time after that.
My story overlapped with Roy’s at Welch, where we worked together for six years. We were both in the Physical Operations Department. (That is a fancy term for the cleaning department. We were janitors.) I started working at Welch immediately after graduating in 2000. For part of that time, we were co-workers. For part of that time, I was his supervisor. (He had no interest in being the supervisor of our department.) During my time as his supervisor, I never once had to worry about Roy getting his work done. I could assign him certain tasks and I would have full confidence he would complete them in exemplary fashion.
But my history with Roy goes back further than that. He was working at Welch when I was a student there. In all my time at the college, I do not believe there was anyone friendlier than Roy Beem. He would make time to talk to anyone and everyone. He would smile, wave, and yell “Howdy!” from across the campus. I would see him with his teenage daughter, after she got out of school for the day, and they would take walks around the campus neighborhood. I saw his love for his kids, spoken visibly and without words.
Our time at Cofer’s Chapel intersected for nearly 20 years. In all that time, Roy always stayed busy and active. Recently, he decided to quietly start attending a church closer to where he lives. The drive to Cofer’s is too long for him to make every week. He did not want any fuss or anything to be done when he left. While this might not constitute as a “fuss” I hope that my words here will show him that he is greatly appreciated for his life-long service and example. I loved my time working with Roy, even while I did not love the actual work. I had many great conversations with Roy about any number of topics – books and church music among them. He was a loving husband for nearly 50 years. He is a doting and caring father and a faithful servant of God. He is my friend and I miss seeing him every Sunday where I can hear him say, “Howdy Phill!” I know he is enjoying spending time with his two grandsons and his daughter. I know he will still find ways to stay useful and productive. But the one thing I know more than anything – every church needs their pews to be filled with laypeople like Roy Beem.