Donald Beamer, lifelong resident of North Grimsby Township, died instantly under the wheels of a Lincoln County snow plough, the very machine that was to bring to an end a night of frustration and hardship, in zero temperatures, for Beamer, his cousin, James Beamer, and members of the Grimsby Volunteer Fire Department.
The tragic accident, which cast a pall over this community, occurred on the wind-swept, snow-clogged Ridge Road, a few hundred yards west of the Thirty Mountain about 3:30 a.m. Saturday, and happened only minutes before the County plough would have completed its mission.
Donald Beamer died as a volunteer worker of North Grimsby Township, the township that just over a month ago elected him to its council and saw him named to the important office of chairman of the Road Committee. It is ironic that the accident occurred on a road not maintained by the township but by the County of Lincoln.
Steps leading up to the climax of the never-to-be-forgotten night reveal one of frustration suffered by men acting voluntarily in the service of mankind. It started when Grimsby firemen were called out to combat a minor fire at the farm home of Edward Brubaker, Upper Thirty region. Both trucks responded to the call; one got through to the Brubaker home, the other bogged down in three-feet-high snowdrifts on the Ridge Road, a short distance from Park Mountain Road. When firemen on this snowbound truck realized they would require help to free the vehicle, a representative was dispatched to the home of John B. Aikens, Reeve of North Grimsby, and whose residence was but a short distance away. Here the fireman was told to call Don Beamer. Upon receiving the call, Beamer contacted Jim Beamer, who was sleeping at the township equipment shed. In a matter of minutes the two men were on their way to the scene with the township snow plough.
"Don was annoyed when we reached Park Mountain and realized the fire truck must be further along on that portion of the Ridge Road maintained by the County," Jim Beamer told The Independent, "but we carried on, and after bucking heavy drifts all the way, reaching the fire truck. It was the first time Don had been with me in the snow plough, and I remember him saying, 'Boy, I'm sure getting an education tonight'. Don and I were to have started out at 3 o'clock Saturday morning to plough roads out. The night before Gord Metcalfe (Clerk of North Grimsby) had been out with me as a volunteer worker."
Suffering from shock and lack of sleep, the young road superintendent then related how they finally manoeuvered the township plough past the fire truck and began towing it toward the Thirty Mountain, ploughing the road out at the same time.
"It was just too much for my truck, and about a quarter of a mile from the Thirty we bogged down. There was nothing to do but call for assistance from the County," Jim Beamer stated.
A phone call was finally made after first failing to rouse the occupants of one house. Archie Roland of Beamsville, County Road Superintendent, said he could dispatch a truck just as soon as he could get a crew ready. Some two hours passed before the County truck, with Claire Davis in charge, hove into view, coming in from the east. During this time Don and Jim Beamer sought refuge from the bitter cold in the home of Graham Clarke.
"I was never so glad to see a stove in all my life," commented Jim Beamer, "but the sight of the County plough was pretty welcome and we dashed out of the house when it came along. The wind was whipping the snow around and I'm sure Claire Davis did not even see Don and me as we ran to climb up on the tailgate of the big plough.
"We rode along for a short distance, and just when we were nearing the snowbound fire truck and township truck, I could tell Claire was having trouble bucking through the deep snow. I told Don we had better get off the truck, and I jumped down on the road. I was about 12 feet back of the truck when I saw it move backward so as to get a run at the drifts. Don never got out of the way; it all happened so quickly, I don't know...!"
"I ran up to the cab and yelled at Claire to stop. It was the first he know we were anywhere around - I'm sure of that.
"I ran up to where the firemen were huddled about their truck to tell them what had happened. After that I didn't even notice the cold anymore..."
Three other firemen came on the scene from another direction, not knowing of the accident. Something in the snow caught their eyes, and turning on a flashlight they were stunned by what they saw.
"My God, it's Don Beamer!" one of them managed.
Provincial constable D'Arcy Garrett was summoned, and made a thorough investigation, and the rescue of the fire truck was completed. It carried back to Grimsby the body of the man who, hours previously, had set out to free it from the driving elements.
The late Don Beamer was born in North Grimsby 44 years ago, and had resided here all his life. The family recently was saddened by the death of his father, the late G. Murray Beamer, who passed away New Year's day, scant hours after hearing that his son Donald had headed the polls in the township election. Just two weeks ago, Mrs. Donald Beamer's father passed away.
The late Donald Beamer was education in Grimsby schools, and for several years was a respected and highly thought of member of the Niagara Packers Limited staff. His jovial and generous manner labelled him as a man whose circle of friends increased with every new acquaintance. His tragic death will be felt in many circles. He was a director of the Niagara Peninsula Fruit Growers' Association; a director of Niagara Packers, and a director of the Ontario Grape Growers' Marketing Board.
He was a member of Trinity United Church, and was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of that church. He was a member of the Peach King Gardens Commission, being one of the township representatives.
He was a member of Union Lodge, No. 7, A.F. & A. M., G.R.C., and special Masonic services were held at the Stonehouse Funeral Home on Sunday evening. They were largely attended by Masonic Brethren.
He is survived by his wife, the former Shirley Speirs; one son, Jack; and a sister, Mrs. H.B. Metcalfe, of Grimsby.
Coroner Dr. A.F. McIntyre, after consultation with Crown Attorney E.H. Lancaster and Constable D'Arcy Garrett, has decided that death was purely accidental and no inquest will be held.