June 7, 1941 – Sept. 17, 2019
Fern E. Beavers found fulfillment in enhancing and celebrating the lives of others, especially seniors and veterans.
As a leader in the Erie County Chapter of the Links, Inc., she was instrumental in developing plans and raising funds for what will be the nation’s first monument to honor African American war veterans, scheduled to be unveiled next year in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.
Among her accomplishments as manager of the Minority Veterans Program for the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a position she held at the time of her death, was an awards ceremony for a group of 40 minority women whose military service had previously been overlooked or forgotten.
With the Links, she also co-chaired a living history project – “The Centenarians: We Have a Story to Tell” – that created a book and video recounting the memories of 10 African American women in the Buffalo Niagara region who lived for at least 100 years.
A clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry with a career of more than 40 years at the VA Medical Center, she died unexpectedly Sept. 17 in her Buffalo home. She was 78.
Born Fern Elizabeth Jackson in Buffalo, the oldest of four children, she was a graduate of East High School. Just 17 when her mother died, she took charge of caring for her siblings.
She later studied at Trocaire College and earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from D’Youville College in 1972.
She went on to complete a master’s degree in nursing from the University at Buffalo and did postgraduate work at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.
With the VA Medical Center, she took part in pharmaceutical research projects and served as an Equal Employment Opportunity investigator for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She also collected stories from veterans.
In 2011, she arranged for a terminally ill veteran to achieve one of his final wishes, to marry his longtime girlfriend. For the ceremony in the hospital, the Links provided the gown, Tops Markets contributed a wedding cake and Mrs. Jackson recruited a friend to join her as a bridesmaid.
She was a clinical instructor in psychology at the UB Medical School and was serving as a commissioner on the accreditation team for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which oversees nearly 600 nursing schools across the nation.
She was appointed by Gov. Hugh Carey as a member of the Advisory Committee on Children and Youth in 1979 and was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing in 1989.
She was honored in 1997 with a National Conference Brotherhood/Sisterhood Award and in 2006 at the first Women Builders of Communities and Dreams Recognition Dinner. She also was honored as an Uncrowned Community Builder.
A lifelong member of St. John Baptist Church, she was the first woman to chair the Trustee Board. She also served on the boards of the church’s McCarley Gardens and St. John Senior Housing projects.
As co-chair of the church’s Board of Christian Education, she was instrumental in founding the city’s first African American Christian school, St. John Christian Academy. She also served on the planning committee that established Buffalo Hospice House and helped set up Project Joy, an after-school program for the developmentally disabled.
She co-chaired the church’s historical committee, overseeing the gathering of artifacts and documents that resulted in the publication of a book, “Yielding to the Spirit,” which recounts church history since its founding in 1927 by the Rev. Burnie C. McCarley.
She also served on the boards of the St. Augustine Center, the Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center, D’Youville College, Women for Human Rights and Dignity and the local chapters of the March of Dimes, the American Heart Association and the Girl Scouts.
She also was a member of the planning board for the first Community Healthcare Center on Goodrich Street.
In addition to collecting stories from centenarians, for the past several years she worked with the Buffalo Genealogical Society of the African Diaspora, interviewing local women in their 80s and 90s for a book entitled, “Blessed Beyond the Promise,” planned for publication next year.
She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Gamma Phi Omega Chapter; and the American Association of University Women.
She was a founding member of the Lydians, Western New York’s first African American investment club comprised of mothers and daughters.
Her husband of 16 years, Anthony H., an auto worker, died in 1977.
Survivors include a son, Gregory A.; a daughter, Dr. Kelly Renee Beavers-Clemons; a sister, Sandra Jackson Cardwell; a brother, Michael Watts; and four grandchildren.
Services were held Sept. 21 in St. John Baptist Church, 184 Goodell St.