Beverlyn Lomax Pepper
Beverlyn Lomax Pepper had four great loves: faith, family, friends and flowers. On April 2, 2021, surrounded and sustained by all four, she left this world. She left it immeasurably better for having inhabited it.
Beverlyn was born in the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood, Mississippi, to Clifton Lamar Lomax and DeLeslyn Morgan Lomax. The genesis of her unusual name (“Beverlyn,” with an “n”) was her mother’s unusual name—DeLeslyn. They shared the “n.” (Later, they would share a passion for their profession—teaching elementary school.) Six years after Beverlyn was born, her sister Fay joined the family. While Beverlyn started out in the Greenwood public schools, when World War II came and Cliff went overseas to serve, the family moved to the tiny town of Itta Bena, Mississippi to live with Beverlyn’s maternal Grandmother and Grandaddy Morgan.
Beverlyn attended Mississippi State College for Women, then the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), graduating with a degree in home economics. One semester, she worked as a co-op student with the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA’s mission was to provide electrical services to rural, mountainous areas in Tennessee and North Carolina. It would hold meetings to demonstrate the value of electricity; while the men met, the home economists would prepare fragrant meals using microwave ovens, hoping to convince the men (and their wives) that electricity would enable them to do the same. (The TVA also told farmers that electricity could prevent their barns burning down; unlike a kerosene lantern, electricity couldn’t be kicked over by a cow!)
When she was twenty-one, Beverlyn married Ernest Bruce Pepper, Jr., from another small Delta town called Leland. The couple made their home in Memphis, Tennessee, and Beverlyn taught home economics at Horn Lake High School. But when Bruce’s mother became ill, the couple moved from Memphis to Leland to care for her. Leland had a home economics teacher, so there was no job for Beverlyn. She attended Delta State University in nearby Cleveland and obtained a degree in elementary education, then taught in the Greenville, Mississippi school system (Greenville was fifteen miles down the road from Leland). When a vacancy occurred in the Leland school system, Beverlyn was hired as a first-grade teacher.
Beverlyn and Bruce wanted children but were not able to have them. They decided to adopt a child through an agency in New Orleans. In 1964, Bruce received a call that there was a baby for them to adopt. He rushed to the school to tell Beverlyn; when she asked whether the baby was a boy or a girl, he admitted that he’d been so excited he’d forgotten to ask. It was a girl, and they named her Pamela (Pam). They were so delighted that they immediately applied to adopt a second baby. It took four years for them to get the second call; that call came on April 1, April Fool’s Day, and the agency had to call three times before Beverlyn and Bruce were convinced it was not an April Fool’s joke. The couple returned from their second trip to New Orleans with their son, Clifton Bruce (Cliff).
In 1969, the United States Supreme Court decided Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, mandating the immediate desegregation of public schools in the south. The Leland school system decided to place a small group of white teachers into the Black school and vice versa. Beverlyn was asked by the school superintendent to be one of the four or five white teachers to go into the Black elementary school. She accepted the invitation. There were consequences to that decision; some shunned her socially and it was not unusual for the school to be evacuated due to threats. But Beverlyn persisted. To this day, members of the family run into former students of Beverlyn’s who talk about the impact she had on them. She gave everything to teaching—learning new techniques, preparing lesson plans, providing school supplies herself when the school had no money. Beverlyn eventually became principal of the middle school in Leland, though administration was not her first love; she adored her first-graders, and said as a principal she saw the parents only when they were upset and the children only when they were in trouble. Eventually she returned to teaching, which she continued until she retired from the Leland School system. She then spent two years teaching second grade in Bastrop, Louisiana.
In 1995, after a few vacations in the Arkansas River Valley in Colorado, Beverlyn and Bruce moved to Nathrop, Colorado. Beverlyn became a family and consumer education agent for Colorado State University in its Chaffee County office. She loved this job, getting to meet and work with people of all ages. She helped develop licensing certification for day care facilities and helped design a booklet called “Baby’s First Wish,” which gave young parents information about developmental stages and activities for children from birth to two. She helped the 4-H members prepare for the Chaffee County Fair—the youngest all the way to the high school seniors.
Beverlyn and Bruce loved to travel. When Pam and Cliff were young, the family went to Europe twice (one suitcase full of granola bars, the other full of clothes), Canada and Mexico, as well as camping around the United States. The first trip took place when Pam was eight and Cliff four; Beverlyn loved seeing the world through the eyes of her children, noting that language was no barrier to their making friends. After Pam and Cliff grew up, Beverlyn and Bruce continued to travel—China, Mexico, Ireland. Beverlyn took a solo trip to Russia on a river cruise. Ireland was her favorite place.
Beverlyn loved living in Mesa Antero, the neighborhood where she and Bruce built their home. She loved the changing seasons and the beauty of the mountains. She joined a hiking group, a sewing group, a group called the Happy Ladies. She had more friends than she could count. She belonged to the First Presbyterian Church, where she especially enjoyed the Praise Band’s music.
Beverlyn and Bruce were married for sixty-two years. She called him “Pepper,” and loved him with all her heart. When Bruce’s health failed, Beverlyn cared for him herself until he passed in August 2020. She missed him deeply.
Beverlyn leaves behind countless friends who have done so much for her, from sending cards and letters to keeping an eye on her home to helping pack her belongings. She leaves her beloved sister and friend Fay Cook and Fay’s husband Tom Cook, Fay and Tom’s son David and his wife Amy O’Connor. She leaves Pam and her son, Leland Hanewall. She leaves Cliff, his wife Staci Watts Pepper and Cliff’s daughters Sophie and Sasha Pepper, to whom she was more a mother than a grandmother. None can imagine a world without Beverlyn Pepper in it. All are grateful beyond measure to have been part of her world. She was the most generous, big-hearted, funny, gracious human being imaginable, and was grateful for every gift life gave her. We love her a million muchies.
In lieu of flowers, we suggest that people make memorial donations to the American Cancer Society or the Youth Mission and Ministry, c/o Pastor Hilary Downs, First Presbyterian Church, 7 Poncha Boulevard, Salida, CO 81201. Memories can be left on Beverlyn’s Tribute Wall at www.EllisFamilyServices.com.