Bea Cleveland: Dedicated to Madison County
By Dean Shipley
For Beatrice Bea Cleveland, 4-H was her life’s work.
Cleveland, who spent a number of years in Madison County, passed away on Valentine’s Day in Columbus.
She was 91.
Doris Gordon Roby fondly recalls Cleveland when the former was a girl and Cleveland was the Home Economics Demonstration Agent for OSU Extension, a post at which she served from 1945 to 1951.
Roby described Cleveland as “tip top.”
In those days, Gordon became involved in 4-H and had a dress she had made qualify to compete at the Ohio State Fair. It was entered in the style review.
The first-time trip to Columbus was truly heady stuff for Doris and with all the excitement and summer’s heat, Doris recalled becoming “light-headed.”
Ever concerned about her young charges, Cleveland called for an ambulance and rode with young Doris in the back, endeavoring to comfort her.
“She was always so encouraging,” Roby said.
As a demonstration agent, Cleveland showed Madison County youth a variety of things to make the home a better place to live. Roby said it could be anything from cooking a casserole to proper setting of the table, to meal planning to explaining the nutritional value of foods.
Once Cleveland demonstrated how it was done, the students were expected to demonstrate what they had learned. Roby said each township had a demonstration team. She was a member of the Canaan Township team.
Cleveland was also a proponent of camping for youth. But everyone, even a leader, has to start somewhere. The following is an excerpt from an extension pamphlet.
“Cleveland… remembers her first camping venture as a real learning experience. Having never been to camp or served as a camp director prior to her position with extension, she had little experience to call upon when question by the then agriculture Agent, Mr. Wilbur Wood, about how to bring about silence in the camp after the playing of taps. It was at this time she informed Mr. Wood of her lack of experience in which he said, “you never told be you had no camping experience during your interview, Ms. Cleveland,” in which she quickly replied, “you never asked.” Needless to say she survived, as did Mr. Wood through that first night of camp.”
Of her own camping experience, Roby said the group had a good time. In a day before sleeping bags, bed clothes brought from home would be spread on “oil cloth,” the precursor to plastic tarps.
Cleveland went on to be a successful fundraiser for 4-H. She was instrumental in founding the 4-H Foundation in Madison County. Roby said to get it started, Cleveland contributed the first $500. She would then finish it off with the last $500.
Cleveland was inducted into the Ohio 4-H Hall of Fame in 1979. An excerpt from the website says the following:
“Since May of 1977, Bea has traveled thousands of miles across Ohio in her effort to raise funds for the Ohio 4-H foundation Fund. It is a tribute to her remarkable personality and enthusiasm that she far exceeded her goal of $1 million. Many have said that no one in the State of Ohio, other then Bea Cleveland, could have raised so much money in such a short time for Ohio 4-H. She raised nearly $1 1/2 million! Bea has also been active in the international 4-H Youth Exchange Program since its inception in 1948. Never officially off duty, Bea has been a friend and confidante to IFYE delegates to and from Ohio for over 30 years. Bea’s work has strengthened 4-H and is has been enriched by her presence throughout.”
Cleveland’s other honors include:
In 1980, Bea was inducted into the Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame for her promotion of the 4-H Foundation
In 1981 the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame and
In 2002 she was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.
A memorial service will be held for Cleveland at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, in the Ascension Lutheran Church, 1479 Morse Road, Columbus.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Weir Arend Funeral Home, Columbus.