Guest Post: Two (Senate) Officers and a Gentleman
By Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard and Greg Schmidt, Secretary of the Senate.
The day started with the usual grey West Coast beach overcast which, as the bagpiper played, soon began to break. The morning sunlight gradually crept through the stained glass windows, filling the sanctuary of the American Martyrs Catholic Church with a sense of warmth and welcome.
The people who had come this day to celebrate the life of long-time senator Robert Graham Beverly numbered about 250, including former California senator and Governor George Deukmejian, Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, Attorney General and former Governor Jerry Brown, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Assemblyman Charles Calderon and former legislators Richard Alatorre, Mike Roos, and Jerry Felando.
There was also a special friend and emissary — Don Maddy, the son of Beverly’s closest friend, the late Senator Ken Maddy — and numerous friends, professional associates and neighbors.
Beverly’s wife of 64 years, Bettilu, along with her family, greeted us as we entered the church. Once seated, we were greeted by a large black and white photograph of Beverly as a candidate, very Kennedy-like, coatless with shirt and tie, sitting on the top of the back seat of a white convertible, white hair, a broad smile, waving to the crowd in front of him. On this day that crowd was us. It was hard not to wave back. It made you smile, just remembering.
After the Catholic ceremony, we were treated to various remembrances of this man — father, grandfather, husband, Ssenator.
Superior Court Judge Hollingsworth, a former law partner, remembered their struggles in the early days. How they spent time pitching pennies with each other in the office waiting for the phone to ring. How their careers as lawyers grew, right up to Judge Hollingsworth’s appointment to the Superior Court bench where later in his career he was asked to serve in the South Bay Superior Court, so it would be easier for him to have his weekly Friday lunch with his pal, Bob Beverly.
It was evident that change of location was “influenced quietly by the Senator”.
Judge Bill Keene, who said, “his credentials were in order to recall his 60-year friend.” said that Bob, “sang from inside” as a state senator. How he was meant to fill that seat. How the judge’s favorite Yiddish word was “mensch” . How it meant someone of consequence, someone to be emulated and admired, someone of noble character, with a sense of dignity and a sense of what is right.
That was Bob Beverly, as a senator and person.
He recalled that on the death of George Gershwin, it was said by a friend, “I don’t have to believe it if I do not want to.” And with great poignancy stated, “Bob Beverly died on October 14th 2009 and I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.”
Beverly’s young Grandson, Angus, recalled conversations with his grandfather, doing word scrambles and the senator’s love of American history. How his grandfather taught him confidence and integrity.
He said he loved these conversations with his grandfather. Like the time Bob was discussing oil drilling and the effects on the environment with his daughter, Angus’ mother.
Angus joined the conversation, agreeing with his mother’s point of view and told his Republican grandfather, “Everyone knows Republicans do not care about the environment.”
The senator paused, and then reminded his grandson, “Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican and he cared about the environment. Don’t tell me Republicans do not care about the environment.”
He remembered the time they visited Washington D.C. How “they visited the various monuments and the conversations they had about them or the people they celebrated.
But one was especially important one, the World War II Memorial, where for the first time, he saw his grandfather cry.
“He was silent as his eyes teared up. I know it was for the people in that war that he cared about,” Angus said.
One of Beverly’s sons thanked the caregivers who gave their time to comfort his father during his last days. He told us a story about election brochures and why Bob believed everything printed should get out before Election Day “because there is nothing more useless than an election brochure the day after an election.”
It was a ceremony that truly reflected the impact of legislative term limits, since it was void of any active members of the Senate. Bob served 30 years in the Legislature, was vice chairman of the Rules Committee and routinely the upper house’s presiding officer, yet no current Senators were present.
Greg Schmidt and I were asked by a former member of the Assembly, “Where is the Senate?” to which Greg Schmidt replied, “I guess it’s us”.
In a different time, a quorum would have been present.
Our Secretary of the Senate said it so well: “Bob loved two things, life and the Senate. Life has subdivisions that were his privately: his family, his friends, his hometown, his history. But his love of the Senate was ours together.”
Beverly believed fervently in the value of our governmental system, where citizens might be elected and serve with others who become friends, joining together to make this state a better place.
“He was the last Republican senator to preside—not that the rules have changed, not because he was subservient to the majority, but because he believed it was HIS goddamn house.
“He was there and he made his own way.”
It was a ceremony befitting the gentlemen he was.
Filed under: California History
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