Bea moved to Bremerton, WA in 1943 with her family where she attended Central Grade School, Coontz Jr. High where she met her best friend of 77 years, Shirley Gilford and graduated from Bremerton High School in 1953 as a straight “A” student. She started her major in nursing at the Seattle University in 1953 and became a pledged member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Years later she graduated from the University of Washington School of Nursing with a BSN degree in 1963 and a MSN degree in 1971.
She received her RN License in 1963 before pursuing her long-term career in nursing. Her love of nursing led her to various positions which included being the first African American Community Health/Visiting Nurse with the Kitsap County Health Department, a Health Occupational Instructor at Olympic College in Bremerton and a Maternal-Child Services Supervisor at the Bremerton Kitsap County Health Department. She also worked for Harrison Memorial Hospital in Bremerton, South Kitsap School District, Tacoma Public Schools and ended her nursing career as the school nurse at Wilson Middle School in Tacoma.
In 1954, she married Edward Beard and within several years had two children, Ronald and Katherine. She married Earl J. Smith, Jr. in 1965 and expanded her family by also becoming a stepmother to Earl’s 5 children.
Bea was a 50+ year member of the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization and held roles as a Financial Secretary and Treasurer for the organization. During her Senior year at the UW, she was awarded a scholarship from MMPNO for her nursing program. Bea had a strong sense of community responsibility which was demonstrated by her involvement in the Kitsap County Health Department Family Planning Clinic, Head Start Sickle Cell Testing Program, immunization clinics and other professional services in the community, as well as, her commitment in the NAACP, Bremerton Chapter.
For most of Bea’s life, she was an active member in a church. During her childhood, she belonged to Ebenezer Methodist Church with her family and after her marriage to Earl, became a long-time member of St. Luke's Methodist Church. She was also a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Bremerton and Seattle for many years and at New Beginnings Church in Renton.
Several of her achievements included being named the winner of the 7th Regional Elks Oratorical Contest when she was 16 yrs old, named 1976 Woman of Achievement by the Bremerton Business and Professional Women’s Club and named by Governor Dan Evans to work as a Board Member of the Washington State Board of Nursing.
Bea had a love for travel and adventure. She enjoyed nature, camping, music and singing in her church choirs, going on cruises and traveling across the U.S. to visit relatives and see many historic sites. She liked sewing, quilting, taking pictures and being the family historian with all her photos. She especially loved spending time with family and friends.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, Earl J. Smith, Jr.; her parents Lubertha Ross and Dan L. Ross; brother, Terry Ross; son Ronald Beard, daughter Katherine Beard, stepson Earl Smith III and granddaughter Jocelyn Ragsdale; she is survived by her stepson Jim Smith and stepdaughters Jackie Nichols, Mary Rocillo and Lita Oetken; brother Donald Ross; sisters Gloria Taylor and Tami Ross; grandchildren Kim Forte, Rashaud Emperado, Candice Washington, Lenny Haynes, Lauren Madrid, Mallory Smith and Alexandra Beard; eight great-grandchildren; her best friend Shirley Gilford; and a host of other relatives and friends who will dearly miss her.
A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held at Miller-Woodlawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park in Bremerton, WA on February 17, 2024 at 11:00 am.
In lieu of flowers, you can honor her memory with a scholarship donation to the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization (https://marymahoney.org/donate/).