Bruce Austin Beam
March 2, 1934 – July 26, 2019
On July 26, Bruce Austin Beam of McLean, Virginia, 85, passed away due to complications from Alzheimer ’s disease. Bruce is survived by his loving wife, Priscilla, and his children and their spouses Meg Beam Grattan (David Grattan), Sara Beam-VanLandingham, and Captain Bruce Austin Beam, Jr., U.S. Navy (Margaret) as well as eight grandchildren, Grace, Kate, and Thomas Grattan; Alec and Alyssa VanLandingham; and Andrew, Meredith, and Olivia Beam.
Bruce was born on March 2, 1934, in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Harry Austin Beam and Margaret Priestley Beam. He graduated from Stratford High School, Stratford, Connecticut, in 1952. He graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Bruce attended U. S. Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and was commissioned as an Ensign in 1957. He served on Active Duty as an Officer at the U. S. Navy Facility on San Salvador Island, British West Indies, and at Coos Head, Oregon in 1958 and then as the First Lieutenant aboard the USS Helena (CG-75) from 1959-1961.
After completing Active Duty, Bruce attended the University of Richmond School of Law (1964). He then joined the Appalachian Power Company in Roanoke, Virginia, and rose to the position of Company Attorney. In 1978, he joined American Electric Power Company (AEP) and was promoted to the position of Vice President- Government Affairs. He opened and headed AEP’s Washington, D.C., office until his retirement in 1999. During that time, he represented AEP and utility industry interests before the U.S. Congress and several Presidential administrations. He also chaired the Edison Electric Institute’s Legislative Executive Advisory Committee for four years.
Throughout his professional life, Bruce continued his military service in the U.S. Navy as a Reserve Officer and he rose to command several major Reserve Units. In 1984, he was chosen to serve on the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel (CEP) and served there until he retired from the U.S. Navy having achieved the rank of Captain with 27 years of service in 1988. In 1990, at the request of the current Chief of Naval Operations, Bruce volunteered to continue serving on the CEP on a “pro bono” basis. Fourteen years later, Bruce brought closure to a U.S. Navy Reserve career that spanned almost five decades. All told, he served as a personal advisor to six Chiefs of Naval Operations. His personal military decorations include: two awards of the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, and various campaign and deployment awards. Bruce also received a U.S. Coast Guard Letter of Commendation and the U.S. Coast Guard Public Service Commendation for personally leading the successful effort to rescue two young swimmers from the surf in Nag’s Head, North Carolina.
An accomplished golfer and avid outdoorsman, Bruce was an active member of the American, Virginia and the D.C. Bar Associations. He served as Aide de Camp to six Virginia Governors and served on the Board of Governors and Executive Committee of Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD. Bruce was a loyal and devoted friend. He most loved spending time with his family, on the golf course with his dear friends, and in the duck blind with his beloved Labrador Retriever, Jordan.
A memorial service will be held Friday, August 2, at 1:00 p.m., at St. John’s Episcopal Church in McLean, Virginia. In lieu of flowers, the family wishes for any donations to be made in Bruce’s name to the Alzheimer’s Association, National Capital Area Chapter.
Born in Connecticut, Bruce left for college in Virginia, and with the exception of his early active duty Navy years, he never left his adopted home state. He remained a loyal Virginia Tech fan his whole life and settled in Roanoke following law school at the University of Richmond. Virginia seemed like a fine place to him to work and raise a family. It was certainly better than the cold Connecticut winters of his youth, since he was a man of many, many hobbies, most of them being outdoors. While raising his family and working as a corporate attorney for Appalachian Power Company and later American Electric Power Company, he golfed, hiked, ran, camped, bird hunted, fished, was an excellent trap/skeet shot, grew fabulous vegetables and made wonderful plum jam.
He did many things, and most of what he did, he did very well.
Bruce knew how to live and he lived well and with substance. Working in Washington, D.C., for most of his career, it would have been easy for him to succumb to the 24/7 workday of a corporate lobbyist. He did not choose that path. He attended his children’s sports events (even driving from McLean to Nashville for the day to watch Bruce, Jr. play soccer with his team at Vanderbilt), was home most weeknights and every weekend. He made time to enjoy his family, friends and his hobbies.
While seemingly effortlessly balancing his career and family life, he provided those in power in our country with the best intelligence he had access to, he told the truth, and he made a difference in everything he did.
He loved his country, dedicating almost 5 decades of service to the U.S. Navy as an active duty officer and a reservist. He seamlessly melded his government relations skills and knowledge of Washington, D.C., with his dedication to the Navy, advising 6 different Chiefs of Naval Operations. Much of that work was done on a pro bono basis. He felt great pride putting on his uniform and freely shared his exceptional professional skills for the benefit of the U.S. Navy. For his service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal.
Bruce would enter a room on Capitol Hill, and not only know everyone there, but know their spouse’s and children’s names and what was special about each one. He never met a stranger. He befriended people everywhere from all walks of life, and made every one of them feel special and important. He brought his famous home grown tomatoes to dear friends and to members of Congress and their staff and would take them to his favorite restaurant, Jean-Pierre on K Street, where the chef would prepare them just the way he liked.
He was a loyal and dedicated friend. A friend who would do just about anything for you, who remembered important things and always had a sage piece of advice or a naughty joke when you needed a good laugh.
Bruce was a dear and beloved husband and father. He was the glue that held everyone together. His wisdom and generosity were unparalleled. He loved his family and he loved spending time with them, and they with him. He and Priscilla were married for almost 55 years, they traveled the world together and raised 3 children, Meg, Sara and Bruce, with loving care. They laughed and learned together and loved being in each other’s company. During his retirement years, he reveled in spending hours with his grandchildren and leaves a spectacular legacy of kindness, talent, patience and intelligence. He would be so proud of each of his grandchildren and the paths they have taken and there is so much of him in each one of them.
There was a rebellious streak in him though too. A native of New England, he loved wearing his cowboy boots and hat wherever and whenever possible. He drove his candy apple red 1960 Corvette convertible all around McLean and Congressional Country Club and loved to take people for rides in it. He loved country music before it was hip to love country music. He sang very poorly. He jumped out of airplanes, out swam a tiger shark, helped rescue some young swimmers caught in a rip tide at Nag’s Head, crashed in a helicopter (on the way to play golf no less), sliced and diced himself in countless home fix-it projects, broke a leg, had two knees replaced and fell off or through our roof several times that we know of. He was a survivor.
He knew everyone in town; knew their favorite foods, sports teams and hobbies. He had an unbelievable memory for that kind of thing, until he didn’t. Bruce suffered from a disease that killed his father and robbed him of everything that he excelled in. It progressively stole his memory, his relationships and his speech. Being the survivor that he had always been, he fought his disease every step of the way. Even when Alzheimer’s had stolen most of his speech, he miraculously could recall and eloquently deliver every curse word he ever knew to derail any kind of interference by his kind and patient caregivers. Nothing could prepare him or his family for the battle he would wage against this awful disease. He fought his battle with dignity and perseverance until the end, remaining the Virginia gentleman and warrior that he always was.
Bruce lived an exceptionally interesting, happy and meaningful life. I’m sure we can picture him now riding off in his Corvette, in his cowboy hat and boots singing badly to his favorite country tune on his way to play an outstanding round of golf!
- Celebration of Life Memorial Service Friday, August 2, 2019
Bruce Austin Beam
Claudia Mansfield nSutton
August 2, 2019
Woody and I send our deepest condolences to you and your family. Bruce was a stellar man whom all of us loved very much. He always had a smile and a positive outlook on life!
Woody and Claudia Sutton
August 1, 2019
Moira and I are so, so saddened to hear about your dad, Bruce. I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet him, especially when he embarked on our ship way back when. I remember how proud he was of you and how excited he was to be haze gray and underway on his son’s ship. I also think he was amazed that a couple knuckleheads like us were somehow naval officers....
He truly was the epitome of an officer and a gentleman.
August 1, 2019
The news of Bruce's passing brings deep sadness along with so many memories ~ as utility colleagues and friends.
I will always remember Bruce for his professionalism, his wit and his love for his family, friends and country. He was a dear friend to me - always there to share advice ~ as well as stories of his love of the Navy and his family.
There are many memorable moments etched in my heart of this beautiful and generous soul...rest in peace Bruce.
Fondly ~ Paulette
August 1, 2019
Bruce: You have been a great friend since
I came to Washington. You were always
there with advice, support and your
leadership in the Reps community. You
taught me how to manage CEOs and
deal with crises. The industry and AEP
made great advances because of your
leadership. I loved playing golf with you
and learning from the master. How many
Navy stories did we exchange? Most of all, I admired your love and devotion to
Priscilla and your family. Smooth sailing!
July 31, 2019
It is with a heavy heart that I received news of Bruce's passing. Sadly, I will remember it the rest of my life since he died on my birthday date. Bruce was my first boss at AEP. I have enjoyed a very successful 31+ year career with this company as a result of his taking a chance in hiring me in May 1988. He was a great man who loved his country, and our company. He was a man of incredible integrity and amazing political acumen. He was a wonderful friend to many, and respected by all who were fortunate to interact with him through his military and corporate career. He will be missed.