Patricia Gibson Beetle September 14, 1924 – May 28, 2024

By Karen Beetle, World BEYOND War, June 4, 2024

Pat Beetle was born Anna Patricia Gibson on September 14, 1924 in Toronto. She was lovingly named by her two older sisters Kathryn and Jean. Her dad, John C. Gibson was a salesman for Oneida LTD and traveled widely for the company. Pat spent her early years in Buffalo, New York then moved to Kenwood, New York at age 12. Kenwood was the home of the Oneida Community – a utopian communal society. Although the original community had passed its heyday, the members were family friends and the elders of Pat’s childhood. The sense of community was strong and enduring. Pat’s mom, Minnie Gibson, trained as a nurse, traveled from her upstate New York home to work in Puerto Rico and then served as a nurse at Oneida’s knife plant and as a caregiver for the elderly.

Pat graduated from Sherill High School in 1942 and Skidmore College in 1946. After teaching high school English for one year, she decided to pursue a degree in the newly emerging field of guidance and work placement. She graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1948. She lived in Brooklyn and worked for Parsons School of Design before taking a job at Stephens College outside of Kansas City, Missouri. It was there that Pat had her first experience of racial segregation, and she was shaken. Pat moved back to Albany to be closer to her ailing father and took a job in career placement at the NYS Nursing Association in Albany. Later that year, she was picked up for a canoe trip by a fellow member of the Adirondack Mountain Club at her apartment on State Street and met David Beetle who was picked up at his apartment on Willett Street. She began dating the “elderly editor” as he was coined by her friends. At that point – he was the editor of the editorial page for The Knickerbocker News.

Pat married David Beetle on January 2, 1958. They had hoped to be married in Europe, where Dave was traveling for the paper – but they couldn’t meet residency requirements. He returned to NYC, and they were married by a judge – swapping an Alpine honeymoon for Bermuda and hastily buying bathing suits in the city. Pat and Dave engaged in the political conversation of the hour, enjoyed theater, travel, and continued to hike and paddle together. Their son, Christopher Gibson, was born on September 30, 1959, followed by their daughter, Karen Ann on April 6, 1961. Pat stayed home during those years, volunteering on the school’s theater committee and with community organizations. Pat had left the Catholic Church to marry Dave as the church did not recognize his divorce. In 1965, Pat and Dave joined the Albany Friends Meeting and her weekly attendance and decades long involvement with Quakerism began. Yet the roots of her activism began much earlier.

When the radio report of the United States deployment of the atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima was aired, 20-year-old Pat had just stepped in the door from attending Mass with her father. This news and the staggering loss of life that emerged over the weeks ahead deeply impacted Pat. Her young life had already been impacted by the many peers who left high school to fight in the war and the loss of family who were killed. Pat’s activism began to emerge in the late 60s as reporting of the war in Viet Nam revealed the horror of the war, and the voting rights drives and lunch counter sit-ins were met with violence in the South. After Dave died of congestive heart failure in July 1972, Pat channeled her grief and life energy into fulltime activism for peace and social justice. She joined the Meeting’s weekly vigil against the Viet Nam war which she attended for 7 years until it was laid down at the war’s end.

Pat’s first major organizing project was working with Augusta Beadonkopf and Elizabeth Pearson on a feeder walk from Albany to New York City as part of the 1976 Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice from San Francisco to Washington, DC. Augusta and Liz were catalysts for change and had been court-watching and running a small bail fund in Albany City Court. Seeing the incredible recidivism, they arranged for training to start a mediation program. With Pat’s help, the Albany Dispute Mediation Program was born and eventually received state funding in 1981. Around this time, Pat was introduced to the work of the Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) which began in Green Haven Correctional Facility in 1979. Pat was trained and, along with beloved colleagues – Ellen Flanders and Al Brophe – began 25 years of providing AVP workshops in area prisons. This work was deeply important to Pat, and she agreed with a friend who said, “Maybe we should drop everything and do AVP.”

And yet Pat identified herself as a world citizen. The American Friends Service Committee issued a call to end the nuclear arms race in 1979. Pat’s involvement with nuclear disarmament began and went on to include years of work with Upper Hudson Peace Action on the nuclear freeze campaign. During the height of this campaign, they organized 50 house parties to discuss nuclear disarmament and get signatures for the freeze campaign in one night. Pat travelled to the Soviet Union with Promoting Enduring Peace in 1980 and was moved by learning of the incredible loss of life and devastation there during World War II.  Twice more she returned to the Soviet Union, promoting dialogue, and encouraging diplomacy. In 1993, Pat joined a Peace Brigades International delegation to support Guatemalan refugees fleeing violence in their homeland and accompanying their return. In 2001, Pat went to Israel and Palestine with a delegation and learned of the complex and painful conditions for the Palestinian people. Several years later, she travelled to Cuba with a solidarity delegation. On the home front, Pat volunteered for the International Center for over fifteen years as a coordinator of a weekly group for women from other countries living in the Capital Region.

In 1983, Pat joined the Women’s Encampment at the Seneca Army Depot which called for the end of long-range missile deployment on European soil. Pat took part in civil disobedience at Seneca, Rocky Flats, and the School of the Americas. She was jailed briefly. Pat went on to help organize Women Against War in response to the Iraq War and then Grannies for Peace – an organization of women speaking out against the dual threats of climate change and nuclear war. Her last vigil with Grannies for Peace, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, was on Mother’s Day 2024.

Pat died peacefully at her home on May 28, 2024 – four months short of her 100th birthday. Her family held a brief service of prayers and songs from Quaker, Catholic, Buddhist, Hare Krishna and Native traditions to bless her journey. Pat’s deep commitment and decades of activism are her legacy. She inspired several generations of activists – working simultaneous on multiple issues and providing a bridge between local organizations – quietly networking, listening and building connections. May we carry forth – uplifted and inspired by her activism, her dedication and her enduring vision of a better world.

Pat is survived by her daughter Karen Beetle (Victor Anderson), her son Christopher Beetle, her granddaughter Fern Beetle-Moorcroft (Oliver Goosen), the children of the late David Beetle, Jr – Gwen Beetle (Matthew Hudson), Kathy Sico (Vince Sico), Ben Beetle (Lily Beetle) and great-granddaughters Vianne Hudson, Violet Sico and Sophia Beetle, her nieces Mary Ann Balestreiri and Barbara Busch, her great nephew Tony Balistreiri (Nini Balestreiri) and children AJ and Sophia Balestreiri, her great niece Kellie Quint (Mark Quint) and children Jeff Bailey and Will Balistreiri, her great niece Lisa Balestreiri and children Luke Hackman, Chelsea Hackman (Stacy Watnick) and Jacob Hackman (Victoria Hackman) and his son Maverick Hackman, her great niece Alicia Cragin and her children Trevor Cragin and Vivica Cragin and her great nephew David Drellich. Extended family include Cindy Moorcroft (Cindi Clo) and Cindi’s daughter Victoria.

Calling hours will take place at the Albany Friends Meeting, 727 Madison Avenue, Albany on Thursday, June 6th from 4 to 7PM and on Friday, June 7th from 4 to 7PM.

A memorial service will be held under the care of the Albany Friends Meeting on what would have been Pat’s 100th Birthday on Saturday, September 14th at 4PM at the Albany UU (405 Washington Avenue, Albany). Please join with her family to honor and celebrate Pat and to hold each other in the light.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Albany Friends Meeting, earmarked for the Pat Beetle Memorial Fund. Funds will be split between the Alternatives to Violence Project and Young Peacemakers Week.

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