Beatrice "Bea" Beddor missed her first U.S. ballroom dancing championship in years when she broke a wrist skiing in Colorado.
The Duluth native, who was in her late 60s at the time, was single-handedly lifting her age-50-plus dance group from its onetime reputation as an "old lady division." Since turning 60, she had also run a marathon, completed a triathlon and traveled the world — a new adventurous chapter after a life wholly devoted to her 10 children and her Catholic faith.
Beddor died in February of complications from lung cancer. She was 90.
"She showed there's hope for all of us," said her daughter Mary Meuwissen. "We can all have another life after 50."
In many ways, Beddor's life was shaped by a love story with her husband, Bill, whom she met on a blind date arranged by her sister and his brother. She had toured the country in the late 1940s as a skater with a pair of ice shows, but wrapped up that career to start her family.
Bill ran a family-owned printing company in Minneapolis. The family grew quickly, and Beddor ran her household with unflappable efficiency and unfailing good cheer.
"She was really an organized gal," said Bill. "If she hadn't had all of these children, she would have been the CEO of a company and run it as well as she did our family."
She told her children they didn't have to do their chores, they "got to" do them — an opportunity to help the family and prepare for adulthood. Besides, there was always something fun to do just as soon as the chores were finished. In a converted airport limo, she shuttled the children to softball, gymnastics, horseback riding, swimming and more.
"She didn't believe in sitting around," said her daughter Sandy Beddor. "She didn't believe in couch potatoes."
Physical fitness and the outdoors had always been central in Beddor's life, but she and Bill kicked things up a notch after their children grew up and left home. A pioneer of ultramarathons in Minnesota, Bill turned her on to distance running. She completed her first Twin Cities Marathon at 58. At 60, she did a triathlon in Kauai, placing second in her age group.
A few years later, Beddor accompanied her husband to a high-altitude race departing from a Mount Everest base camp. After a bout with altitude sickness, she decided to scale back running and instead pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a competitive ballroom dancer. Once again, the notion that age might pose a hurdle did not seem to cross her mind.
Indeed, says her instructor and longtime competition partner Scott Anderson, her fearlessness quickly made her legendary in his dance studios and on the competition circuit. Her athleticism and daring on the dance floor set new standards for competitors in her age group, he said. And of course, if Anderson said they had to practice the cha-cha that day, she corrected him that they "got to" do it.
Once, she saw a daredevil ice show move in which a skater lifted his partner, let her roll down his body and caught her by the wrist and ankle. She wanted to try incorporating the lift in a dance, but Anderson demurred: A drop onto the studio's hardwood floor could be dangerous. The next day, she walked in lugging an exercise mat.
With more than 30 championship titles, "Bea was the winningest dancer in her age group in the country when she retired," Anderson said. "She became an inspiration for all of our students."
Unbeknown to his wife, Bill took lessons from Amy Anderson, Scott's wife and fellow instructor. Eventually, he joined Beddor in a string of competitions. In their Lake Minnetonka home, the couple hosted visiting dancers and held fundraisers in a maple-floored, mirror-lined ballroom.
"The tail end of our lives was the really fun part," Bill said.
In those later years, Beddor also became a licensed real estate agent, served as a Eucharistic minister at her church and took classes in photography and video production to document her travels to more than two dozen countries. She also stuck with a hobby dating to her days as a young mother: She researched companies — keeping track of their earnings, growth projections and dividends in dozens of neat notebooks — and invested in the stock market.
"She was a lifelong seeker of knowledge," Meuwissen said. "She was a learner."
In addition to her husband of 68 years and daughters Sandy and Mary, Beddor is also survived by two other daughters, Catherine Robin and Deborah Roth; six sons, Brian, Michael, Kevin, John, Billy and Patrick; 24 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. Services have been held.