Remembering an icon: Carol Brett-Beumer left indelible mark on adopted home
February 14, 2019
A tall, striking woman with long, dark hair, she wore a yellow Stetson hat and cowboy boots, and strode purposefully down the streets of Craig Colorado, usually outpacing anyone who happened to be walking alongside her: That's the most common image described when Moffat County residents are asked to recall Carol Brett-Beumer.
But this community icon was more than just a strking image. In the history of Moffat County, probably few individuals have meant more things to more people than Brett-Beumer.
"She was the most complex person I ever met in my life," recalled longtime friend and colleague Jane Hume.
Master salesperson, dedicated newspaper publisher, passionate horsewoman; devoted wife, mother, grandmother; friend, activist, philanthropist: Depending upon whom you ask, Brett-Beumer was each of those things — and she was all of them.
On a snowy Christmas Day in 2018, Carol Brett-Beumer passed peacefully away, surrounded by her loving family.
She was 84.
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In speaking with those who knew her best, it becomes apparent Brett-Beumer embraced each of her roles with the enthusiasm and can-do attitude she brought to every aspect of her long and productive life, and as a community, Moffat County — her adoptive home — will miss her terribly.
But her life was in no way defined by it's ending, any more than it was charted by it's beginning — as an ailing newborn who was not expected to survive infancy.
Beginnings and endings, though convenient mileposts, are only punctuation marks that reveal little about the bigger things they exist to describe; what truly matters is contained between those punctuation marks. That's the place stories are made, and that's the place Brett-Beumer lived — in the moment, determined to overcome any obstacle she faced, and committed to doing anything and everything she could to help her family, her friends, and her neighbors.
She was also a woman of fierce determination — a "force of nature," Hume said.
She never met a challenge that backed her down, including applying for and landing a job as a newspaper advertising representative when she had no experience or background in the field and eventually rising to the publisher's office of the Craig Daily Press during a time such positions were still heavily dominated by men.
"She just felt like she could do it," said daughter, Lynn Barclay. "That's the way she was. If you told her she couldn't do something, she was determined to show you she could."
And because of that, she left an indelible mark on the community she called home for half a century.
She will not soon be forgotten.
An accidental career
Carol Brett-Beumer was born June 5, 1934, in Patterson, New Jersey, the daughter of William Roy and Hazel Newkirk (Stiles) Thompson. She grew up in various rural towns throughout New Jersey, ultimately graduating from William McFarland High School, in Bordentown, New Jersey.
And though she is perhaps best remembered in Craig for her longtime role as publisher of the local newspaper, she initially entered the field of journalism with no experience and as a means to pursue one of her other passions in life: keeping, riding, and showing horses. According to Barclay, Brett-Beumer had been fascinated by horses since her childhood.
"My Mom, even as a little girl … always loved horses, and my aunt told a story that their Dad took them one day … where there were pony rides, and my aunt, who was the older sister … just hated it. But my Mom loved it, and then would beg their Dad to take her."
This fostered a love of horses that would continue and grow throughout her long life.
"She was a stay-at-home mom, but she wanted a horse, and it prompted her to look for a job so she could save money to buy a horse," Barclay said. "I don't exactly know her thought process and how she got to the Bordentown (New Jersey) Register newspaper … (but) she must have known the Bordentown Register was looking for a sales rep and went in and started working for them, and that began her career in … advertising sales."
Interestingly, Brett-Beumer had no experience in advertising or sales when she embarked upon her career in newspapers — only a keen interest in politics and civil rights.
She worked at the Bordentown Register until the family relocated to Colorado in the late 1960s, "because my Dad always wanted to move west," Barclay said. "They had taken a trip west the year before, and they went through Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and some other western states and decided they liked Colorado.
"Through the newspaper industry, my Mom found that the … Salida Mountain Mail was looking for an advertising representative," she added. "She contacted them, and they hired her, and that took us to Salida in 1967."
They remained in Salida for a year, until Barclay's father, Charlie Parker, accepted a job at Hayden Station, and the young family moved to Craig in 1968.
A year later, Brett-Beumer accepted a job with the Craig Daily Press under founder and owner Bob Sweeney. She was promoted to publisher when Sweeney sold the newspaper, and some attribute much of the Craig Daily Press's success through the years to her dedication and personal sacrifices.
And her generosity and selflessness were not confined to newspaper pursuits.
Hume related one of many such instances.
"I was at the Yampa Valley Bank one day trying to figure out if I had any money in the bank, because they were about to turn off my electricity," she recalled. "Carol walked in and looked at me and said, 'What's wrong?' I told her, 'I don't have enough money to pay my electric bill,' and she handed me $200. She never asked for it back. This is the way Carol was."
Barclay said Hume's story comes as no surprise.
"She could never turn a blind eye to someone who needed help," Barclay said.
She told of another time when a person who had previously been in trouble with the law for embezzlement applied for a job with the newspaper.
"Mom had a good feeling about this person, so she hired her," Barclay said. "She always gave people a second chance, and beyond."
Her giving nature extended to community service, as well. She started the county's first reader's council, advocated for newspapers and civil rights, and remained active with St. Mark's Episcopal Church's lady's auxiliary throughout her life.
A passion for horses
During her early years in Craig, Brett-Beumer and Parker divorced, and she later married local horseman Joe Brett, whom Barclay described as "one of the original horse whisperers."
Together, the couple continued and expanded upon their mutual love of equestrian pursuits, establishing a horse breeding operation and participating in numerous horse shows in various states throughout the West.
At the height of their breeding operations, Barclay said, the couple owned as many as 18 horses.
In the late 1980s, tragedy struck.
Brett died suddenly of an undiagnosed aneurysm behind his heart, essentially ending Brett-Beumer's foray into horse breeding. Her passion for riding and showing horses, however, never waned. In 1991, she married Roger Beumer, another area horse enthusiast, a union that would flourish for the remainder of her life.
After retiring in 1997 as publisher of the Craig Daily Press, Brett-Beumer continued to enjoy riding and showing horses, and she and Beumer would routinely summer in Arizona to enjoy trail riding.
She also continued competing.
In 2010, at the age of 76, she rode Misty Sunrise, a 14-year-old Palomino mare, to two significant honors, winning reserve champion in Western Pleasure Riding at the 2010 National Missouri Fox Trotter Fall Show and Celebration in Ava, Missouri, as well as national champion honors in Amateur Western Trail riding, the latter the result of 2010 cumulative scores in six different shows held in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
Barclay said her mother was still loading her horse into a trailer and driving to Maybell every week to ride with friends at the age of 83, the year before her death.
An enduring legacy
Carol Brett-Beumer is survived by her husband, Roger Beumer; one daughter, Lynn (Willy) Barclay; one sister, Nancy Golden; and three grandchildren, Jamie Urie, Brandon Barclay, and David Barclay.
She was preceded in death by one daughter, Jane Kelley, and her parents.
Recalling her mother, Barclay said Brett-Beumer's example, particularly in her later years, was an inspiration.
"When it came to what she wanted to do, she was determined, she was tenacious, and there was very little that would stop her from pursuing her passion, her dreams," Barclay said.
But she also described a woman who was fiercely devoted to her family, her friends, and her community.
"My Mom was … an inspiration to me and to many others," she said. "(She) always … really set the example of having an open door, and open heart, and an open mind. She never knew a stranger, and everyone was always welcome. She was also tolerant and accepting to almost everyone, and I think it helped form who I am."
"She was just an amazing person," Hume said. "I was really, really fortunate to know her. It changed my life, and I miss her."
Contact Jim Patterson at 970-875-1790 or jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.