The descendants of Anna May Campbell Beeman will pause briefly at 10 a.m. today to honor the memory of the young Boone County wife and mother who died Dec. 4, 1918.
Anna was 32 and recovering from childbirth 10 days earlier when she succumbed to the virulent strain of influenza that killed 9,948 Hoosiers and more than 50 million people worldwide. The pandemic claimed her 13-year-old daughter Selma the night before Anna died in her sleep. She had been ill less than a week.
Family historian and genealogist John Robert Jeffs, who spent countless hours piecing together the details of his great-grandmother's life and death, said Anna was born July 11, 1886, in Boone County to William Henry and Melisa (Godfrey) Campbell.
She married John W. Beeman, a railroad brakeman, on Feb. 2, 1904. He was away from their rural home working on the railroad when his son John was born and his wife and daughter died. During his absence, Anna and her children were cared for by Dr. J.E. Tucker.
Family oral history tells that neighbors, frightened of catching the deadly virus, refused to go into the home to help. Anna’s brother, Jay Campbell, who was the principal of Whitestown High School, arrived and rescued Loretta, 10, Mary, 3, and newborn John from under the bed. They survived to adulthood.
Jeffs said Anna's husband registered for the draft on Sept. 12, 1918, about six weeks before her death. His draft registration lists his address as Rural Route 4, Lebanon. The Beemans and the Campbells all lived on farms in Eastern Boone County between Elizaville and Gadsen, near Fairview Church.
John Beeman, who also farmed for his brother-in-law, Jay Campbell, died four years later in 1922 and the children were sent to an orphanage. Loretta and Mary found foster care in Indiana. John was adopted by a family named Shirley and taken to New Mexico.
The only time John W. Shirley would see his sisters again was when he knocked on their door passing through Indiana to report to the U.S. Navy. He served as a Navy radioman during World War II and was reported wounded in action.
Jeffs said, “Mary, my grandmother, remembered the loss of her mother and father, the tribulations of the foster care system, and the isolation from her siblings. She honored her mother, assuring that her daughters and grandchildren did not suffer for lack of food, clothes or a warm home.”
Mary, he said, lived by the words “Help someone else when you are able."
Jeffs is a 1971 Lebanon High School graduate who earned a doctorate in education administration from Indiana State University in 1989. He has served more than 30 years as an Ivy Tech Community College administrator, most recently as vice chancellor of economic affairs at the Michigan City campus.
Jeffs said the only time his mother, Nancy Jeffs, saw her mother Mary — Anna's daughter — cry was in 1945 when Mary was holding her newborn daughter Jane in bed.
“Mary told Nancy that the reason for her sobbing was, 'I have this beautiful new baby girl and cannot show her to my mother.'"