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David Beatty Masters Degree Portrait
(Portait of Dad for his Masters Degree)
UPDATE: Dr. David Pierce Beatty 1933 – 2015

Dr. David Beatty, Professor Emeritus, History, Mount Allison University

Many people know my father as Dr. David Pierce Beatty, a retired history professor at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He was born in Williamston, Michigan USA on October 10, 1933. He liked farming and dropped out of college to be a farmer but that didn’t last long. He went back to school, attending Michigan State University where he earned his Masters & Ph.D and moved to Sackville in the 1960s when Mount Allison was recruiting professors from all over.

He absolutely loved teaching and only retired because he had to at 65. I was lucky enough to attend Mount A at the same time he taught there. The students truly loved him. It was easy to make friends, I’d just say I’m Dr. Beatty’s son. It was quite an experience.

Dad and I at Mount A
(Above: This is a paired photo set made by Mount Allison fine arts student Nancy Conly Pinkerton at the time Dad and I were at the university together [1999]. She wanted to contrast my father and I as storytellers. I was telling a story about my altercation with a hobo on a Paris subway car, and he was likely talking about Abraham Lincoln or foreign policy.)

In the Dog House: Campus Life with Dad 1996-2000

Students would stop me on campus to tell me what an incredible lecture he had just delivered, then they’d shake my hand like I had some part in it, which I definitely did not. The creative outlet for my youthful angst at the time was The Argosy Weekly, Mount Allison’s Student Newspaper. I was part of the original team who launched the web version of the paper in 1996. I was also Graphics Editor and every week I published a controversial comic strip called “The Dog Who Went to Mount A.”

Daman Beatty Argosy Weekly Dog Comics
(Above: Some random clippings from comics I published in the Argosy Weekly Graphix Section 1996-2000. The guy on the top right threatening the bird is my friend Chief Arlen Dumas. The context of the comic is that the bird, Bobby Crow owes him money for pool. Arlen used to severely kick my ass at pool so it was a bit of an inside joke. I got a scolding from Jack Drover [Head of Athletics] for the bottom one. This was shortly after Mount A got rid of the men’s hockey program.)

Luckily Mount A was a very liberal university and would let us publish just about anything. I took full advantage of that freedom and I’m glad that stuff is no longer available online. My poor mother would be terrified of what I’d publish each week (justifiably) while Dad seemed OK with it. I remember him chuckling at some of the ones I showed him before they went to print.

Daman Beatty Comics
(Above: More of my cartoons)

Fellow student and Argosy Editor, Marty Patriquin (now a writer for Maclean’s Magazine) once told me he asked Dad privately what he thought about my crazy comics. All Dad said was, “he’s figuring some things out.” Haha!

But sometimes he himself went a little too far with his stories. I do recall one time there were letters to the editor in one single issue complaining about both Dad (for telling a story in his convocation address about campus life in the 1960s involving some fat lady getting stuck in a bathtub) and myself (for the comics). I guess I was a chip off the old block.

Retirement

Dad retired in 1999 and I graduated in 2000, but we both wore gowns at my graduation because he received an honorary Professor Emeritus status from the university that year.

Dad and I at my Mount Allison Convocation 2000
(Above: Dad and I at Mount Allison Convocation 2000 where he received Professor Emeritus status and I received my degree)

Dr Beatty with Colin Burleton
(Above: Dad shaking hands with student and varsity football player Colin Burleton at his retirement party in 1999. Notice Burleton is holding a copy of Dad’s second book “Memories of the Forgotten War”. Dad loved football and the players loved him. He never, ever missed a Mount Allison Mounties Football game.)

My sister Margaret and I at Dad's retirement party
(Above: My sister Margaret and I sitting at Dad’s retirement party. Margaret looks a little overwhelmed with it all. Notice my firm grip on that beer.)

This G… Damned Disease

Dad jogged an average of 10km a day most of his life and always made a point to eat the healthiest foods. I figured he’d live to be 100, but in 2009 he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease called Lewy Body Dementia – the same disease Kelsey Grammar’s character has in “Boss” (really good show). It is like a cross between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, but Dad actually does have Parkinson’s too.

It’s been really tough watching Dad slowly lose his battle with this disease. I’m sure he’d still be farming, running, writing more books and visiting with former students if not for this. I know he was upset when I moved back to Vancouver in 2009, and it is difficult being so far away.

Just before Christmas 2012 his condition worsened and he ended up in the Sackville Memorial Hospital. I took a trip home from Vancouver to visit him. Luckily my profession allows me to work remotely. My wife and I spent a week with Dad right in his hospital room.

Visiting Dad (Dr David Beatty) at his hospital room
(Left: Dad and his Christmas buddy Rex the baby penguin. Right: Me working in Dad’s hospital room as he rests.)

Benjamin Franklin was the biggest son of a…

Dad is an amazing storyteller. This is what students loved about him the most. A former student and friend, author Rick Maclean wrote a wonderful 3-part blog post about a visit with my Dad at his summer residence (the Farm) in 2006.

David Beatty, Me and What Do in Life by Rick Maclean: (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3).

Rick can really paint pictures with words. I love the way he describes my Dad, it’s so bang on. I’ve added some of my favourite excerpts below along with some related pictures (with captions) from my vast archives.

I was reminded of that story on a recent day when I stopped at Lake’s country store in southern New Brunswick, as I often do on the way here. It’s next to the water and quiet, except when the wind is howling off the Northumberland Strait, as it was that day.

Lake's General Store, Murray Corner, New Brunswick
(Lake’s General Store)

The store owner was where he always is – if I’m not buying gas, which he pumped at 113.9 a litre that day. He was sitting in the corner of the crowded store, green ball hat on his head. His wife worked the cash register. An ice cream and a chocolate bar chewed up the better part of a $5 bill.
That kind of money would buy a night’s beer at the pub when I headed to Mount Allison University in the fall of 1975. Time at the pub was a rare treat for a serious-minded science student with ambitions of becoming a doctor, and a girlfriend starting Grade 12 at MVHS back home.

The Farm, also known as Parkbeg Farm in Murray Corner NB
(The Farm, also known as Parkbeg Farm in Murray Corner NB)

Back in the car outside the country store, I chewed on the ice cream and looked up the hill across the road. The battered blue half-ton was there. How long had he had that truck? It was nearly 4:30. Nearly supper time. His family might be there. Best not to stop in.

David Beatty's old 1984 Chevy Truck
(Dad’s old 1984 Chevy Truck parked somewhere in Quebec during a camping trip)

But, as Beautiful Daughter is prone to pointing out whenever I try to duck out of something we’ve done year after year, “it’s a tradition.”
I’d stopped by around this time of year for the past five years.
The car turned itself left as I pulled out of the parking lot. It turned left again into the green tunnel of trees, complete with foot-high grass growing in the middle of the dirt lane, leading to his house.
David Beatty opened the door.
Dave – Dr. Beatty, Professor Beatty back then – had been a legend at Mount A long before I arrived. His classes in the foreign policy of Canada and the United States were packed and everyone went. Missing a day was rare, even though no attendance was kept.

“Benjamin Franklin was the biggest son of a…”
“You should’ve been there today,” a pitiless classmate crowed the one day I missed Dave’s class that term. “Beatty came in, turned sideways, looked out of the corner of his eye, smirked and that’s how he started: Benjamin Franklin was…”

The guy hadn’t taken a note, but he rhymed off the entire lecture. From memory. And I’d missed it.
Dave Beatty was a runner. We started running together while I was a student. He wasn’t fast, but he could go for an hour and talk about foreign policy at the same time. Free lectures on the run.
There’d be no running this visit. He’s 73. He has a bit of limp and stoop, but there’s a bicycle in the corner with a well-used water bottle attached. His hair is a bit thinner and whiter, but just as unruly as ever. His hand serves a comb and by evening the hair is where it is.
Instead of running, we sat in the kitchen of the renovated home he’d bought years ago when it was a junk heap with a rock basement, gyprock ceilings and a wood shed doing its best to fall down. Today the house has been restored to its original beauty. Walls with board two feet wide. Beams across the ceiling.
“You can still see the adze marks,” he points up at a beam. I nod. At home later I look up adze in a dictionary: “An ax-like tool with a curved blade at right angles to the handle, used for shaping wood.”
He has a new book out, The World War I Diaries and Letters of Lieut. Louis Stanley Edgett, edited with Moncton doctor Tom Edgett. Dave pops out of his chair and begins rooting in a desk drawer. Moments later he returns and hands me a copy.
“This is yours.”

I didn’t realize it then, but if anyone could understand what I was going through, Dave Beatty could.
Now retired after decades of teaching at Mt. A, he sat in his summer home recently and laughed at the memory of my phone call saying I’d quit yet another career. He raked a hand through his unruly hair, then ran his fingers across the front of his dark green, Michigan State University sweatshirt.

Dave Beatty and his unruly hair
(Dad and his unruly hair)

He grew up to become a farmer in the American Midwest in the 1950s.
“Oh-high-ah,” he still calls it when talking about Ohio. Still in his twenties, he married, settled down. His life’s direction was set.
Not quite.
Farming was then, as it is now, a tough way to earn a living. In a bid to keep prices up, the federal government paid some farmers not to farm. Dave took the money and, with the military draft and Vietnam looming, headed to university, which offered a temporary reprieve from a Huey helicopter and an M-16.
He did well, very well. Earning a spot among the 40-some students on the honour roll. But the time slid by and suddenly he was graduating. He’d been so focused on his studies, he’d made no plans for the future. His marriage was stumbling towards divorce and the military draft awaited.
Then, a professor stepped in and changed his life.
Professor Gesner was an imposing woman with a reputation for not suffering fools gladly. One of the most influential academics in the region, she called him into her office.
What are your plans? she demanded.
He didn’t know.
There is a new scholarship, intended to encourage students to study diplomatic history.
Did he know about it?
No.
Well, the deadline is the next day. He should apply, she said, then she stared at him knowingly. She’d act as a reference. He needed two others.
It was nearly 4:30. He’d better hurry, she said.
Dave rushed from the office and somehow found two professors who hadn’t gone home for the day. Both knew his work, had given him excellent marks. The application deadline was when?
Oh, Professor Gesner had suggested he apply for the scholarship. The letters would be ready, they both promised.
Dave drove the 23 miles to his home, where he spent much of the night filing out the forms. Ten days later he got word, he had the fellowship. He spent the next few years earning a master’s degree and getting a good start on a doctorate.
Finally, he went looking for work. He received a phone call from Bill Crawford, the vice-president of Mount A. Dave had no idea where it was, but Professor Gesner did. She had family connections there.
Crawford had three teaching jobs in the history department to fill and he wanted the young American to fill one of them.
“Give you $8,000 a year,” he said as part of his pitch.
Well, there are other job offers. New Hampshire. Maine.
“Anything Maine can do, we can do better, $8,500.”
Dave Beatty sat on a chair in the kitchen of his summer home and laughed. He traveled halfway across the continent to a tiny school in a tiny town to teach history, he said, and shook his head in wonder.
But the administration left him alone to do what he’d discovered he loved to do. And that was exactly what he needed.
“Things turned out alright.”
Yes, they did. He remarried, settled down for a second time and taught students like me until mandatory retirement drove him, kicking and screaming, from the classroom. Then he turned his energies to saving the tumbledown, 1840-something house he’d discovered near Northumberland Strait.

Parkbeg Farm
(Renovated Parkbeg Farm – have to give my Mom a lot of credit for this restoration too.)

He hired a former biology student at Mount A who had a knack for careful carpentry to do the work. Mark turned the house with the rock basement and attached woodshed full of dry rot into a dazzling home of varnish and original wood.
Dave looked at me across the kitchen table and smiled again.
“And they’ve turned out alright for you, too.”

Rick Maclean’s account was really touching. If you’re a former student or fan of Dr. Beatty I invite you to share your story too, down below in the comments.

My Interviews with Dad

Over the years he shared so many great memories about growing up during the Great Depression, the dirty 30’s. Remember, he was born in 1933! I always told him he should write a book about his childhood.

Camping with Dad (David Beatty) in the 1980s
(Here’s an old picture of me and Dad – or as he would correct me to say ‘Dad and I’ on a camping trip to Roger Lake in northern New Brunswick [1980s]. It was on these trips Dad would tell me a lot of his crazy stories.)

Dad’s mind is not as sharp as it once was because of this “God damned disease” – as he would say. Frankly, these days he may not be sure even where he is, but he could still name off most of the students in his grade 3 class if you asked him to. If you visited him, I bet he’d remember you, at least for a little while yet. I am told that as a history prof, he used this part of his brain a lot – remembering names, dates, facts and figures and it actually built up strength in those areas which has still survived the severe deterioration of his mind.

One day in particular at the hospital he seemed really sharp so I pulled out my iPhone and asked him to tell some of his childhood stories. He and I had a good laugh.

I wrote this post because I am thinking of my poor Dad back home in his worsening condition, and I have collected these videos which I will publish here on my blog, (along with some other goodies) over the next few weeks and months, so stay tuned! Believe me, you’re in for a treat! This will be your source for everything David Beatty!

NEXT: Dr. David Beatty – Growing Up With No Running Water or Electricity

Read my next post, the first video interview of a series with Dad talking about growing up in the dirty 30’s.

Related Posts:

That’s What Over 300,000 Dead Look Like – “Letters to Annie” A Remembrance Day Address by Dr. David Beatty, 2002

Dr. Jason Beatty – Stories from the field – Port-au-Prince, Haiti
There is another Dr. Beatty but this one is a medical doctor (there’s one more after that if you include his wife, also a medical doctor). Jason is my nephew, the son of my older half brother David Jr.

Daman Beatty
The creator of Surrey604.com, Daman Beatty (AKA 'Beatler') is originally from Sackville, New Brunswick. A longtime blogger, visual designer, marketing and communications specialist, Daman loves travel, tech and photography. He has taught online marketing at BCIT, and Brighton College and is also the Marketing Manager for Microsoft Education Partner, CCI Learning.
Daman Beatty
Daman Beatty
Daman Beatty

23 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely lovely write-up Daman, as you well know your family holds a special part in my childhood. I fondly remember the days down at the shore by the little beach shack we would use as a changing room and the many trips to the pool, my best to your father.

  2. Such a wonderful man! I haven’t lived in Sackville for 7 years so have lost contact.

    I first met Dave at football games and then arranging kid drop offs… Kyle visiting you on the farm and you visiting with us at British Settlement at the time.

    Dave was SO loved in the classroom and in the football circle where we had many a chat over Mt.A fortunes on the grid iron. I love his story of showing up for his first MT.A football game very early so as to get a good seat only to be sitting alone until 15 min. before game time!! 🙂

    For all his talents, he was always so down to earth and modest and would go out of his way to compliment something someone else had done.

    We too have a signed copy of the book that Colin is carrying in the photo.

    I love this post and look forward to the next installment. I think the storytelling abilities have been passed on.

    Donna MacNeil (Kyle’s mom) 🙂

  3. I knew your father quite well when I worked at MtA. He would have known me as Marilyn Settle…iIVe gone back to my maiden name Hetherington…we at one time lived on Clarence Ave…and I remember you as well when u were at MtA….ur father came to mind recently wondering he was….he was a pleasure to work with…I worked in Hart Hall for the last few years I worked at MtA and was the only Secretary in the building in the summer and would have dealings with ur Dad…he was always so great to deal with….be proud that he is ur Dad!!!!

  4. This is a great piece on your father. I took a few courses of his when I attended Mt.A, and I can honestly say, the best prof I ever had in all my years of education.
    I can’t count the number of times one of his lectures would start, and 45 minutes later it would be finished….my pen still in my hand, yet not a word written on paper. He was so interesting to listen to…time would fly by.

  5. Hi Daman

    I remember your Dad – and nights at the Argosy – quite well. Slightly different experiences, but both fantastic. Thanks for sharing your stories!

  6. David Beatty was and remains a goddamned inspiration, and is an enormous part of the reason why I do what I do. He taught history as it should be taught: with shaking fists and bared teeth. And he outlasted me at my own graduation party. Keep it coming, Daman. Brilliant.

  7. Hi Daman,

    I hope this finds you well out west. Very nicely written. I don’t recall ever meeting your dad but I know that my wife Leia’s brother Jeff Fraser was his student, actually apparently your dad was more of a mentor/friend to him. When Jeff passed in 1996 during his 3rd year, your dad wrote a nice article for the argosy and a letter to my in-laws. A true testament of how awesome a prof he was, and what a great person he is.

    Sending best wishes to you and your family.

    Andrew

  8. Hi Daman,

    I am saddened to hear that your Dad is unwell…such a horrible disease. Your Dad was a wonderful mentor to me during my years at MTA. In fact, I had the honor of being taught by both your Mom and Dad, as I was a graduate of Amherst High as well. They are such lovely, salt of the earth people! They had such a profound impact on me and they are largely responsible for my choice to become a history teacher.

    Since your Dad is such a wonderful story teller, I wanted to share a story with you and, perhaps, you can pass it along to your parents. When I went to St. FX for my Bachelor of Ed. Degree in 1998, I was unsure if I was pursuing the right career and was contemplating that I might be on the wrong path. However, I stuck with it and I became inspired by another history Professor at St.FX, Dr. Jeff Orr. During one of Dr. Orr’s lectures, he began talking about who inspired him in his life and he began telling stories about your Dad. He talked about the spark and passion Dr. Beatty had for teaching. I couldn’t believe what a small world it was! I knew from that moment on that I truly wanted to be part of a profession that influences and challenges people in such profound ways. I have been teaching now since 2000.
    Please send my warmest regards to your parents. They would know me as Sarah Chapman. I look forward to reading more of your blog.
    Regards,

    Sarah (Chapman) Wood

  9. Ah, Daman – good stuff here. We’re sitting in a treehouse/coffeeshop in Placencia Belize, and you’ve just taken us right back to the livingroom at the farm where we’ve heard your dad tell so many great stories. We’ll see that Liam gets a look at it too before we leave the land of internet connection. Thanks for this! Uncle Jim and Aunt Beth

  10. Very well written Daman! I always loved talking to your mom and dad, such nice people and always were interested to hear what I had to say. It is sad to hear about your dad’s declining health. I feel blessed to say I know your dad! Keep up the great work, I will continue to read on! Donna Lake-Field

  11. I am a nurse at the Sackville Memorial Hospital and that is where I met your father, David. When he first came to us, it was not difficult to realize that he was a very interesting and knowledgable man. Yes, his condition did deteriorate while he was with us and that was difficult to watch. Reading this blog made me smile because it has confirmed my impressions of your father. You and your family are very lucky to have him in your life!! This blog is awesome and I look forward to reading more……Irene Spence Weldon

  12. i take care of your dad currrently at the Drew nursing home and enjoyed the read and wish i could have some bit of every resident there so i could get to know them better…you can be sure the next time i work with your dad i will see him differently, like i know him. Although he made an impression the first time i met him as he talked about how his father ran in politics years earlier in the states, very sharp and with lots of passion, i have seen the passion leave over the past few months with sadness as he succumbs to this horrible disease he knows what is happening and he cant do a damn thing about it. i will continue to care for him and try to give him the best care i can and know that this man lived more in his lifetime than most ever get the chance to and better yet he passed it on to the next generation through teaching and his family.

  13. I guess you have heard many stories about your father! Well here’s two more.
    Dr. Beatty taught me American History 30 years ago. He was, by far, the most passionate teacher in the department. His courses never had a problem attracting students.
    There is one story I tell my University aged daughter – sort of a tip on how to read your professor. Whenever Dr. Beatty would lecture on a topic he particularly loved – he would rock back and forth – heel to toe. Nothing excessive, but certainly noticeable. That’s when I would put a large asterix in the margin of my notes. Later, me and my buddies would compare notes and use those observations to try and determine which essay questions might be on the exam. We were usually right!
    When I started at MtA I was a young 17 and partying way too much. I was destined to become a ‘Christmas graduate’. A good friend convinced me to at least ‘try’ to pass my courses. I put in a big effort for one of Dr. Beatty’s essays – and I received an excellent grade. But, more importantly, your father wrote a remark beside the grade; “Chris – you show great promise. You should consider the History Honors program.” That completely turned me around – I studied harder, got better grades. And graduated in History with honors. I will never forget that comment and your father’s encouragement.

  14. Thanks Daman for the blog. I met your father working for Marc, fixing the old house up. When we looked down the driveway and seeing your father drive up always put a smile on our faces. We would sit and have tea, and he would tell us stories. I always came home amazed at what a wonderful professor he must have been. It was a great experience working for your parents.

  15. Daman,
    What a wonderful wonderful post! Uncle Dave is a man that has touched many lives and has been an inspriration to alot of people including myself and siblings. I to loved listening to his all of his stories. I look forward to reading more ….
    Love to All !

  16. Daman.
    Your Dad’s passion for his classes was matched by his obvious enjoyment of the Mounties football team. As a student from 81-86 and a History/Poly Sci student I was very fortunate to have Doc Beatty for a number of classes. As others have commented…you just didn’t miss those! As I approach my thirtieth (!!!) year in education I truly recall his amazing style in the lecture hall. Pacing back and forth or stalking up and down the middle isle in Avard Dixon he would look you right in the eye and challenge you with a question, or a quip about some interesting personality.
    Not sure if it was our first class in Can. External Relations bit the I’m Alone Affair still resonates in my brain. Your Dad would say that anyone who didn’t think Canadian Foreign policy was exciting was simply ignorant of their own history. While I can’t recall the exact details your Dad strode up the middle isle talking about Captain John T. Randle. Not chain if Randle was a Rum Runner, or some other smuggler, but there he and his crew were….caught up by the U.S. Coast Guard (or Navy) and being told to surrender, etc……he looked at me and said, “and what would you have done in his place?” With his bright smile and cheerful eyes he laughed and then proceeded to tell us all how Randle told the Americans where to go and following some exchange of powder/ shots, etc. managed to steal away.

    I’m sure my details are foggy but that has stayed with me since the fall of 1982 when I first had your Dad for a class. He was truly an inspiration.
    I write this having just learned of his passing. My sincerest condolences to you and your family. He will remain a fixture in the minds and me,prices of all who were fortunate to cross his path.
    John Phillips

  17. I took only two courses from Prof. Beatty in 1986-87 and also had a couple of occasions to visit him at his farm and have lunch. Dr. Beatty was both an incredible lecturer, exceptional teacher, all-round super nice guy and gentleman farmer. I still think about his lectures when I need to make an important presentation to clients and boards. David had a command over a room full of people that I have never seen matched in 7 years of university and 23 years of working life. He was one of a kind that is for sure and I know he will be greatly missed.

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