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Columbia Missourian

John Beahler loved rivers, journalism and writing

By Carlin Wagner
November 14, 2013 | 8:46 p.m. CST

John Beahler had news reporting in his blood, said Scott Reeter, his cubicle neighbor of 10 years.

Reeter worked with Mr. Beahler at the MU Department of Publications and Alumni Communication. He said he had nothing but respect for Mr. Beahler.

Mr. Beahler died Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at Boone Hospital Center. He was 62.

He was born Nov. 23, 1950, in El Paso, Texas, to Lee and Anne (Anderson) Beahler.

Mr. Beahler grew up a military kid. His father was a lieutenant colonel in the Army, which caused Mr. Beahler to spend some of his childhood years in Vietnam.

He attended high school in Prince George, Va., and Waynesville, Mo., and decided to travel before earning a bachelor's degree in political science at MU.

But journalism was his true calling.

When he pursued a master's degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, Mr. Beahler honed his talent for storytelling.

He began his career as a reporter at The Fulton Sun from 1987 to 1989 and then spent more than 20 years as writer and editor for Mizzou Weekly and Mizzou Magazine. He retired in 2010.

Mr. Beahler was truly interested in sharing peoples' stories, and he was good at it, Reeter said.

"His demeanor made people want to tell the story," he said. "He was empathetic. He was never pushy or overbearing. He was always kind and gentle with the people he talked to."

Reeter said Mr. Beahler had a knack for telling stories that most people didn't have.

Mr. Beahler also worked as a freelance journalist and wrote several stories for Illumination Magazine, which highlights research and creative endeavors at MU.

"I was always impressed with his ability to visit with a researcher at the university and then be able to write a story in ... terms for everyone to understand," said Steve Mellis, a friend of Mr. Beahler.

In one article, Mr. Beahler explored MU biologist Carl Gerhardt's research on frog communication.

Here's an excerpt of the story, which published in the Spring 2012 issue of Illumination:

"To most people, the sound is just an unbroken wall of noise, but Gerhardt can hear all the complicated nuances of this amphibian orchestra. Like a concert maestro, he can tease apart the separate voices: the piping of spring peepers, the trilling choruses of tree frogs and the basso profundo blasts from bullfrogs."

"He was an amazing reporter and writer," Illumination Magazine Editor Charles Reineke said in an email. "Old-school journalist in a way that I fear we will never see again: smart, garrulous, witty, self-deprecating. He had the ability to quickly distill information down to its essentials, an eye for the telling detail and a finely developed empathy that never drifted into the overly credulous. He practiced, in short, all that stuff we talk about in J-school then forget about when we get a job."

He was down to earth and very humble in the way he lived his life, Reeter said.

When he was young, Mr. Beahler worked on river barges, and he continued to be enamored by the river culture for the rest of his life. He was an avid kayaker and friends say being on the river was second nature to him.

"He was really connected to the river all his life," said Nurhan Hamarat, a friend of Mr. Beahler.

Mr. Beahler is survived by his longtime partner, Kate King, of Columbia. His parents died earlier.

Private services will be held under the direction of Memorial Funeral Home.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Palmeri Scholarship Fund, Missouri School of Journalism, Office Development, 103 Neff Hall, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Mo., 65211.

"John was an extraordinary person," Hamarat said. "He was brave, loyal and a fighter."