Beatrice Irene (née Ihme) Gudmundson was born on June 16, 1932, in Menahga, Minnesota. Bea spoke only Finnish until she entered school, where she mastered English. She was the second of nine children living on a cattle and produce farm during the Great Depression. Bea recalled her mother feeding hobos who passed through the farm, despite the family’s own hardships.
Bea attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, before moving to Minneapolis. She worked with the Burroughs Corporation, makers of cutting edge office equipment. When problems arose at companies that purchased the newfangled machines, she was sent out to troubleshoot, and usually ended up helping the operators understand how they had made errors.
In 1956, Bea met Theodore Leslie Gudmundson, whom she married that same year after a courtship most memorable for its fishing dates and games of Scrabble. The couple moved to San Diego, California, where their daughters, Lori and Cheryl were born.
In 1960, the Gudmundson family moved to Denver, Colorado, where Bea lived for 54 years with a year-long interlude in Independence, Missouri. Bea taught business classes at Emily Griffith Technical College, known as Opportunity School, and placed every student she had into a job. She and Ted also bought, built and managed apartment buildings over the years. If tenants ran into difficult financial situations, Bea taught them to set up payment plans and better manage their money.
Bea was a businesswoman when most of her female friends and family were not. She demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility for others from an early age, such as working as a teen in town where she had moved to finish high school. She worked two jobs in college and helped her family electrify their farm and pay taxes. With a keen eye for detail, she taught her daughters to manage a business and read contracts carefully. Once, she refused to sign a bank contract because of an error. The bank’s lawyer was called in to explain it wasn’t an error, only to discover it was indeed, and the contract was revised.
Bea believed deeply in education and was a lifelong learner – and teacher. She and Ted also saw travel as part of education, taking their family on weekly summer camping trips in the Rocky Mountains, road trips back to Minnesota, and a tour through Europe. Their favorite place on the planet was Grand Lake, Colorado, where they loved walking to Adams Falls, fishing on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, and watching the elk at dusk.
Lori married David Milton in 1993 and has three children: Eric, Dylan and Kashara. Cherri married Robert G. Jones in 1982 and has two sons: Bobor and Griffith. Bea’s grandkids were her joy. At 5’ ½” (a very important detail to her considering Ted was 6’ 3”), Bea could easily get down to their level of play when they were young, running through and sliding down playground equipment with them. She baked cookies with them, allowed rollerblading in the kitchen on a snowy Christmas day, pointed out wildlife on hikes, arm wrestled and beat her young grandsons (to their dismay and delight), and played board games. As they grew, she delighted in hearing their dreams and encouraged them to follow their chosen paths.
Ted passed away in 2001. Since the couple had worked together for most of their marriage, it was a difficult transition for Bea. However, she continued to maintain the family business, revived her Finnish language skills, formed a book group that was dear to her, and joined friends on walks or at gyms. She traveled with her extended family to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and to the US Virgin Islands, and made trips to France and Finland with her daughters.
In 2014, Bea moved to Springfield, Missouri, to live closer to family. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015 and moved to The Manor at Elfindale in late 2016. With the help of her family, her dear aide and friend Pat Snyder, and The Manor’s caring staff, she faced her illness with grace and retained her sense of humor. Her passions were reading, the arts, and children. She had an unforgettable sense of style to the end – one staff member called her “my little fashionista.”
Bea passed away on January 23, 2019, and is preceded in death by her husband Ted, her parents Anna (née Parvi) and Nels Ihme, her sister and brother-in-law Helmi and Neilo Kinnunen, and her brothers Robert, Donald and Arne Ihme.
She is survived by her daughters: Lori Gudmundson (David Milton), and Cherri Jones (Robert G.); and grandchildren: Eric, Dylan and Kashara Milton, and Robert T. (Jeanette Patrick), and Griffith Jones; by her sisters Shirley (Kenny) Newhouse, and Elaine (Russell) Jacob; her brothers: Duane and Clifford (Doris) Ihme, and many nieces, nephews, and extended family members.
A private person, Bea desired no service. She requested instead a celebration of her life by her daughters’ families. Her ashes have joined Ted’s in his resting place in the Colorado Rockies.