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Karl Lindholm: A legend who 'lifted us all up'

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Posted on November 9, 2017 |
By Karl Lindholm



Beams 2 .jpg
FRED BEAMS, MIDDLEBURY College class of 1966, was a master of the underhand shot in lacrosse. Last weekend he was inducted into the Panther Hall of Fame.

An All-American in lacrosse in his senior year at Middlebury College in 1966, Fred Beams was selected to play that year in the North-South Senior Lacrosse All-Star game in Baltimore.

He won the opening faceoff, dashed down the field, unleashed his wicked underhand shot, and scored ... three seconds into the game!

Last Saturday, Fred was inducted into the Middlebury College Hall of Fame with six other Middlebury stalwarts. This ceremony was only the fourth such celebration, as the Panther Hall of Fame was founded in 2014.

Fred Beams and I overlapped for three years as students at Middlebury, so I had plenty of chances to watch him play football and lacrosse — and that’s just what he did: he played sports. He was fun to watch.

He played with such exuberance, such enthusiasm for the game — and if his lifelong friends are to be believed, he has lived since Middlebury with the same zest for life. As one put it. “Fred brings to any community a daily morale lift.”

His teammate in both football and lacrosse Jack Mettee said, “I never met anyone quite like Fred. He lifted us all up.”

Earlier this fall, I attended a Middlebury football game with Tom Clark, quarterback of the Middlebury team in Fred’s senior year. Middlebury threw the ball in this game against Wesleyan 56 times.

Tom said to me, “We didn’t pass 56 times in a season! I just handed the ball to Beams. I don’t know how he survived!” Another teammate in football, Bob Royer, recalled: “We had three plays — Beams to the right, Beams to the left, quick kick!”

If Middlebury did quick kick, a favorite play of coach Duke Nelson, it was Fred kicking the ball. He was the punter, the placekicker, the return man on punts and kick-offs. I think if Duke had figured a way for Fred to long snap the ball to himself on fourth down he would have done that too.

In football, Fred was fast, shifty, strong. He was all that in lacrosse — and more. Any discussion of Beams in lacrosse quickly turns to his devastating underhand shot, which he developed and refined in high school, modifying a golf swing and hockey slapshot.

His teammate Jon Berger wrote: “His greatest plays were the face-offs when he would flip the ball over the opponent’s stick, scoop it up, rocket down the field and score on a blast from his shoe tops that exploded at the net. And if it hit someone, it put them down like they were hit by a truck.

“He was simply out of this world.”

Another teammate, Drew Otocka confirmed Berger’s account. “In one game, I saw that Fred was winding up for a shot, so I went to the goal for a possible rebound.

“The next thing I knew I was lying on the ground. Dick Waterman, the trainer, rolled me over and asked me what day it was. I asked him what happened and he laughed and told me that Freddy had hit me in the head.

“At practice the next day I got heckled pretty bad, and someone painted a bulls-eye on the back of my helmet that I wore in practice that day.”

Fran Love occasionally played in the goal in practice and faced Fred’s shot. “It was terrifying. It rose from the grass almost invisibly at incredible speed — invisible to me because I closed my eyes!”

After graduating from Middlebury in 1966, Fred spent two years in the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Ethiopia and then embarked upon a 45-year career teaching math and coaching boys’ lacrosse and girls’ soccer, first at St. Paul’s School (N.H.), then at Holderness Academy (N.H.), and the last 25 years at Groton School (Mass.), where he was also the Dean of Students.

Along the way, he took up distance running and ran the New York City Marathon in three different decades.

“The most fulfilling times during my Groton years,” Fred said, “revolved around the three week summer service programs my wife, Cindy, and I developed and led in Peru, Kenya, and Tanzania.

“The design of these programs stemmed in part from my experience in the Peace Corps and the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (where he worked for many summers). I wanted to emphasize the experiential aspects of learning.”

Fred retired three years ago and he and Cindy now live in Camden, Maine, in a renovated carriage house: “I was thrilled to take up carpentry again,” he said, “and have learned how to build stone walls, terraced gardens, and drainage systems for a perennially wet basement! Hands-on projects continue to be a source of joy and strength.”

Will Graham, a student of his at Holderness, later his colleague there, and his friend for life, offered this estimate of Fred Beams: “The bottom line is that Fred is kind, loving, funny, and passionate, and he lives life to the fullest.

“He is loved by hundreds of past students who were so lucky to come his way. He never missed a practice or math class in 45 years of schoolwork. Kids loved him.

“A legend.”

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