Ken Beaton: Happy — and sad news for Christmas

Ken Beaton

Ken Beaton

If you’ve celebrated 40 or more birthdays, you know what happens at this time of the year. You receive Christmas cards/newsletters that are double-edged swords some with happy news and others with sad news.

My distant cousin, Liz, had multiple job titles with her Christmas card; set designer, hair stylist, wardrobe, script writer, photographer, director and producer. Her Snapfish card with both adorable daughters, ages 5 and 3, dressed in matching outfits surrounded by a beautifully crafted Christmas setting. On the other side of the card was a picture of an old sled with wooden runners and a white wool blanket. A red/white candy strip stretch infant sleeper with a snap-crotch laid on the blanket. Printed at the bottom of the picture, “A baby brother to fill our hearts and lives with joy! Arriving March 2019.” I’ve looked at that picture several times and thought, that’s a creative way to announce the birth of your child, happy news.

One of my cousins sent an email, “Our cousin, Bob, died Saturday, Dec. 8 of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Immediately I thought of our uncle Bill who died 36 years ago of ALS at age 64.

Bob was 81, and my youngest sister’s godfather. We weren’t close because I was four years younger than him which was a big difference in our teen years. Yeah, we celebrated our grandfather’s birthday every August. Unfortunately, we never exchanged Christmas cards or called each other. The last time I saw Bob was 15 years ago at aunt Ruby’s 90th birthday party.

Even though Bob and I weren’t close, I kept thinking about him. I started to write different commentary. Before I knew it, I was on The Daily Item’s online obituary page reading his obit.

“Robert J. Beaton, 81, died Saturday, December 8, 2018, from complications due to A.L.S.

Bob was born July 10, 1937, raised in Lynn, attending St. Mary’s school through to high school graduation. After graduating Merrimack College and Salem State College for his master’s degree, Bob taught school in Deer Park, NY, for five years before returning to Massachusetts. He then began teaching in Saugus, first at the Oaklandvale School and finishing at the Belmonte Middle School, retiring after 31 years. During his retirement he spent time traveling in Europe and Western U.S.

Bob was predeceased by his mother Alice, father, Bud and older sister, Marjorie.

He is survived by his beloved sister, Julie Spiliotis; niece, Jessica Spiliotis; devoted cousin, Michele Beresford and family; dear friend, Scott Miller; niece, Linda Zebrowski Valliere; nephews, Brian and Keith Valliere and their families; loving friends, and his faithful pet, Scrappy.

He will be deeply missed by all who knew him and cherished his kindness and humor.

Service information: Interment will be private. Donations can be made in Bob’s memory to the ALS Foundation for Life, P.O. Box 96, Natick, MA 01760 or via or Kaplan Hospice House, 78 Liberty St. Danvers, MA 01923 or To share a memory or leave online condolences, please visit

Bob lived two days short of 81 years and five months. He never married nor fathered any children. I read his obit and thought:

First, Bob’s cousins, Joseph Beaton, Anne Marie Beaton Griffin, Georgie Harris Bryant, Ken Beaton, Doug Beaton, Judy Beaton Shamlian, Cindy Beaton Ramsay, Bill Beaton and Jimmy Beaton weren’t mentioned.

Second, after reading Bob’s obit, who do you think wrote it. Yes, I know you don’t know anyone mentioned in his obit. Think, if you wrote Bob’s obit, would you write a hint to bring attention to yourself? I’m willing to bet most female readers will pick up on who wrote Bob’s obit.

Third, Bob never married and didn’t have any children, but he was a teacher for 31 years. I know it would have involved some “digging,” but a quote from one or two of his former students would’ve made his obit “interesting.”

Fourth, I want you to consider writing your obituary. Don’t tell me, “I’ll get around to it.” I’ve written a draft of mine. Besides the usual information, liven it up with at least one humorous tale. (Remember, you can’t be fined, jailed or found guilty when your horizontal)!

May the year 2019 have more positive news than negative.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment