Obituary of John Beard, III
John Grover Beard III died on December 19th, at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA. He was 73 years old. John’s cause of death was cardiovascular disease, a complication of his 58 years with Type 1 diabetes. In his final hours, he was attended by his wife, his children and his brother, James.
John was born in Astoria, Oregon on August 6th, 1945. It was significant and sad to him that he came into the world on the day when so many lives were extinguished in Hiroshima, Japan. John’s father Jack (John Grover Beard Jr.) was a naval officer stationed at the time in Astoria. John and his mother (Betty DesCamp Beard) moved to Seattle, Washington, where they lived with her parents until Jack resigned his commission in 1947. When John was five years old, his family moved to Portland, Oregon. He became a big brother when his brother James was born in 1950. John went to Central Catholic High School, where he played tennis, a game he enjoyed for decades. He attended Santa Clara University, graduating in 1967 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. In 1969, he earned an MBA from the University of Washington. At Santa Clara University, he met Mary Elizabeth Warren, and they married in 1969. John worked for Standard Oil of New Jersey, living briefly in New York City and then for several years in Illinois. John knew that he wanted a job that provided more significance to the lives of others, and after reflection on that goal, he left his job with Standard Oil. The couple moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where John worked to find a job that would have some lasting social significance. He found, and enthusiastically became part of a young company, Telesensory Systems, Inc. (TSI). TSI had incorporated to develop and market an assistive technology device that allowed individuals who were blind to read printed material. At the time, people with blindness were restricted to either having printed material read aloud to them, by a sighted individual, or waiting until what they wanted to read could be translated into braille (a lengthy and complicated process). For the next twenty years, TSI was on the forefront of assistive technology devices and the development of the beginning of spoken word output. John was devoted to the individuals he met through his work, and he was creative and professional in matching the needs of those individuals to the developing assistive technologies. The products developed at TSI changed lives, and John’s devotion to the concept of assistive technology was profound and genuine.
John loved sailing and camping. He owned a small wooden Sunfish sail boat, and was never happier than when he was sailing on a lake. He played the guitar in his college days, and later took up the banjo as well. John attended St. Agnes Catholic Church in San Francisco, until his mobility challenges became too severe for that outing. The last decades of John’s life were intensely affected by a decline in health. He never defined himself as the sum of his medical interventions and surgeries, but believed in his own recuperative powers. Each medical setback that brought him to a ‘new normal’ became something he fought against. He knew he would talk again; he knew he would walk again. He just had to find the right tools to make that happen. After twenty years of making doors open for others with disabilities, John turned that power on himself. He believed, but collateral damage from each medical crisis was accumulating. He never stopped seeing himself as he once was, and those of us who knew him hope he has found that again.
John is survived by his wife, by his two children — Lisa Beard (Scott Havill), Jamie Beard (Jennifer Becker) — by two grandchildren (Liam and Eva), and by his little brother, Dr. James Beard of Portland, Oregon (Janet Reilly Beard)