Beulah Fern Fenton Stevens
July 9, 1937 – October 12, 2019
The Early Years
Beulah Fern Fenton was born on Friday, July 9, 1937 at Walla Walla General Hospital. She was the second child, and second daughter of Claude and Oral (Wilson) Fenton, joining her sister Katty Joy who was just 20 months older. In their early, pre-school years, the two girls lived with their parents in the home of Hattie Mae and Robert Vent, their grandmother and step-grandfather. Their father, Claude worked as a carpenter building homes in Walla Walla, while their mother Oral continued her service as a Registered Nurse at Walla Walla General.
Around 1939 or 1940, Claude and Oral moved their family to Fruitvale, Oregon, a tiny community near Umapine a few miles northwest of Milton-Freewater. There, Katty Joy started first grade in the Fruitvale School, a short walk from the family home on Sunquist Road. The Fentons were always community-oriented, and the sisters often stood on the stage of the Fruitvale Community Center directly across the road from the school. While living at Fruitvale, Brother Beryl joined the girls in 1943 as the third child, bringing childhood vivaciousness and liveliness to the Fenton household.
Another move brought the family to a small rental near College Place on West Wallula Avenue. Daddy Claude continued his carpentry employment with a local contractor in Walla Walla. The girls were enrolled in Davis Elementary School in College Place, Katty Joy in 2nd grade, Beulah Fern in 1st grade, beginning her journey of formal education which would eventually extend over horizons completely unimagined at the time.
Nearing the end of the WWII years, the rental home on Wallula Avenue was sold in early 1945. Weeks and weeks of searching the Walla Walla Valley yielded nothing available anywhere for the family to live. Mother Oral’s uncle-by-marriage, Leo St. Clair, wrote of a large farmhouse available on North Outlook Road in the Yakima Valley, located on 50 acres of rich farming land, together with several out-buildings, sheds, a small barn and corrals for livestock. With rental agreements in place, four truck-loads of family belongings made the trek from College Place to the Outlook farm in March 1945, just in time to begin preparation for the soon-to-arrive asparagus season. Friendly neighbors and visits from the Yakima Extension Service gave experienced counsel on successful asparagus farming operations. The girls were enrolled as students in the Outlook Grade School, in 2nd and 3rd grades.
The North Outlook place would be the family home for the next 40 years.
Just over two months after moving, right in the middle of the first asparagus season, the fourth and final Fenton child (yours, truly!) made his entry into the family. Beulah Fern and Katty Joy moved immediately into big-sister mothering roles, helping to corral, entertain, and discipline their two little brothers.
In time, all four Fenton young people graduated from Sunnyside High School. Because of her singular ability to focus on responsibilities at hand, her determination, and hard work, Beulah Fern earned a place in the National Honor Society, proudly wearing the gold cords at her graduation in 1955.
College and Beyond
After graduating from high school, Beulah Fern enrolled in the Walla Walla College School of Nursing. This was her first year away from home, and with Katty Joy already in the second-year clinical rotation at Portland Sanitarium and Hospital, the Walla Walla campus was a new and challenging experience. I remember our parents bringing my brother and me to “see Beulah Fern,” and how excited she was to see “two little boys with rolled-up cuffs on their blue jeans” come running up the sidewalk to greet her. She took us on a “tour” of the campus, including Conard Hall, the cafeteria, the chemistry lab, and other locations. During that first year of college she worked in housekeeping, cleaning bathrooms, toilets, and hallways, and—as always—striving to do the best job possible—even with those humble tasks which made life better for others.
Beulah Fern received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Walla Walla College in 1959. After working as a staff nurse at the hospital in Portland from then until 1962, she returned to WWC to earn her MA in Education, graduating in June 1963. In subsequent years this training proved invaluable in her career path which gradually developed into a specialty of Inservice Education for the nursing staff at Portland Adventist Medical Center and later at Loma Linda University Medical Center. During this period of employment in Portland, Beulah Fern co-authored a devotional book for nurses with her friend, colleague, and mentor Grace Scheresky.
In 1969 she accepted a call from LLUMC Nursing Service to serve as Director of Nursing Education and Training. She also maintained faculty rank in the LLU School of Nursing. Through the early years of the 1970s Beulah Fern was instrumental in developing policy and procedure manuals, relating them to contemporary trends in nursing care, organization, etc. This was followed in 1975-77 by her assignment as Coordinator for a US government funded research project studying alternative methods of learning for nursing students.
(On August 12, 1973, Beulah Fern married the love of her life, James Ray Stevens, Jr. at the Granger, Washington Seventh-day Adventist Church. Although they had no children of their own, Beulah Fern and Jim poured their love into their several nieces, nephews, and any other children they knew. The children responded in kind, and each of them still cherish the wonderful memories of “Auntie Beulah and Uncle Jim.”)
As the research project drew to a close, Beulah Fern’s title and responsibilities once again expanded. Under the title “Clinical Specialist,” she was asked to undertake a pioneering project aimed at training nurses to integrate appropriate spiritual care into nursing practice. She served as a liaison between the Nursing and Chaplain’s Departments, working closely with Head Chaplain, Dr. Wil Alexander. In this new capacity, Beulah Fern conducted workshops and seminars for nurses, not only at LLUMC, but also in major Adventist hospitals in the United States.
Once again her job description changed in 1980 when she became the Director of Human Resources Development for LLUMC Nursing Division. She served in this capacity until 1982 when she and her husband, Jim Stevens, accepted an invitation to pastor a tiny congregation in Irrigon, Oregon, a small town on the banks of the Columbia River in eastern Oregon. While Jim and Beulah Fern lived in Irrigon, she remained active as a part-time Examiner for Basic Health Systems. She continued her work in nursing education with Spiritual Care Workshops for Nursing throughout the US, Puerto Rico, and what was then the Far Eastern Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In 1985, Beulah Fern moved again to Portland, this time with her husband Jim by her side. For two years she served as Chaplain/Receptionist in the Pastoral Care Department of Portland Adventist Medical Center. She completed one quarter Basic Clinical Pastoral Education at Providence Medical Center in Portland during Winter Quarter, 1987. With the retirement of Chaplain Services department head Cal Hartnell, Beulah Fern was selected as the new department leader—a position she held until her retirement in 2005.
Affiliations and Memberships
· Sigma Theta Tau. National Honor Society for Nurses
· Association of Seventh-day Adventist Nurses (Life Member)
· ANA Certified Nursing Administrator
· Seventh-day Adventist Church. Member. Ordained local elder.
· Certified Grief Counselor, Resolve Through Sharing
The End of the Journey
With the Walla Walla Valley as her personal and family roots, Beulah Fern decided to move to College Place for her final retirement years. She lived in her own home on Sentry Drive, ever the gracious hostess, loving neighbor, and active member of the College Place Village Seventh-day Adventist Church. With the loving attention of Home Instead caregivers, she was able to remain at home until one year ago when the advancing stages of Alzheimer’s necessitated a move to an elder-care home.
In October of last year, Beulah Fern moved to Sunshine Home here in College Place, where she lived until her death on October 12, 2019. She is survived by her sister Katty Joy French, brother Loren Fenton, nieces Michelle (Shelly) Waymire and Kimberly Holback, nephews Benjamin Fenton and Jeffry Fenton, seven grand-nieces and nephews, one great-grand-nephew, and one great-grand-niece.
Beulah Fern was preceded in death by her husband Jim Stevens, her parents Claude and Oral Fenton, and her brother Beryl Fenton. Her final resting place will be beside her beloved Jim at the Terrace Heights Memorial Park in Yakima, Washington. The graveside service there will be at 11:00 a.m., next Monday, October 21, 2019.
A Final Thought
Each of Beulah Fern’s family, friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances will forever cherish the memories, and bless the Lord for the privilege we have had with Beulah Fern as part of our life. We are all looking forward to the Great Resurrection Morning when death will be no more, no mourning, crying, or pain for the former things will be forever banished from God’s restored Universe and the beautiful Earth Made New. Even so, Come! Lord Jesus!