Meals On Wheels of San Francisco

framed photos on Beatrice's wall

Meet Beatrice: A lifelong learner

Posted March 13, 2014

MOWSF Blog | Senior Stories

Beatrice and Amanda

Beatrice and her MOWSF social worker, Amanda. Beatrice likes to tease Amanda. “You’re too skinny,” she says. “You need to gain some weight!”

When senior Beatrice greets MOWSF social worker Amanda at the door, it’s with a hug. “You have no idea how much this girl has done for me,” she says. “She’s done more than any doctor, more than anyone else.”

Beatrice, who will be 90 years old next week, is a petite but strong woman. She suffers from arthritis and must also use a breathing machine for severe asthma and bronchitis. Still, Beatrice, who has lived in her sunny one-bedroom apartment for two decades, remains cheerful and sharp.

Beatrice-A-30She enjoys chatting with her MOWSF meal delivery driver, Demarco, when he drops off her meals. “Meals On Wheels has been a blessing to me, as well as a life saver,” she says, “from the drivers to the volunteers and social workers.”

Beatrice was born in Missouri and raised in Kansas City. She was one of six children, though now only she and her “baby” sister, who lives in New York, remain. Beatrice became a young adult during World War II and her first two jobs included curing hams and “cooking” gunpowder to be sent overseas to soldiers.

Beatrice was in her early 30’s when she married her husband, a preacher who was visiting from Texas. The two “went together” over the phone for a year and a half before he asked her to get married. Then the couple moved San Francisco in the early ’60s.

Beatrice-A-33Beatrice would have many more jobs, including as a beautician. But her calling, she says, was always to take care of others. During the 1980’s, when the AIDS epidemic swept San Francisco, she became a hospice caretaker for HIV patients. “Everyone was scared back then,” she says. “But I had training to work with HIV.” Sometimes Beatrice would climb into bed and hold the scared “kids.” “Some of them were only 18 years old, and they called me ‘mama’,” she says. “Those kids were like my family. I went to too many funerals and cried too many tears”

Beatrice also served as caretaker for her late husband who, after five years of illness, passed away in 1988. Despite being widowed and then being forced to retire for health reasons, life has stayed full for Beatrice. Her pastor, a student of her late husband, encouraged Beatrice to pursue a dream and go back to school. She earned two degrees – one in theology in 1993 and one in divinity in 1996. The diplomas hang prominently on her living room wall. “I love learning,” Beatrice says.  “If I could, I would do it all over again.”