Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the William & Mary campus community Feb. 24, 2020. - Ed.
I am writing to share the news that James R. "Rush" Beeler, who taught French at William & Mary from 1964-69, passed away on Friday, January 24 in Edison, NJ.
Rush was born in Pensacola, North Carolina on May 27, 1921, and grew up in Burnsville, North Carolina. He attended Mars Hill College, where he was the president of “Le Cercle Francais,” and then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in French. During WWII, Rush served in the Army Air Corps Weather Division, and was stationed at the Pentagon. After he was discharged from the Army in 1946, he returned to Chapel Hill, and earned his M.A. He taught at UCLA from 1950 to 1953 and spent semesters studying at the Sorbonne in 1950 and 1952. Rush returned to Chapel Hill in 1954, teaching French at UNC and at NC Central University and working on his doctoral thesis. In 1961 he married Nancy Norman of Asheville, NC, a UNC graduate who was working as a medical secretary in the cardiology department of the UNC Medical School. Rush earned his Ph.D. in 1964 and took a position teaching at William & Mary. He and Nancy lived opposite the campus at 608 Jamestown Road and became the parents of a son, James R.B. Beeler, in 1965. The family were congregants at Bruton Parish Church, where Nancy was a sometime secretary to Cotesworth Lewis. Rush was a member of the South Atlantic Modern Languages Association and locally, the Botetourt Society, and both he and Nancy were active in Colonial Williamsburg. In 1969, the family moved to North Carolina, where Rush joined the faculty of the newly-minted University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He taught at UNCW for over twenty years, served as Chairman of the Department of Modern Languages, and was conferred emeritus status upon his retirement in 1991. He and Nancy lived in the same house in Wilmington for 44 years until her death in 2013, after which he moved to New York to be closer to family.
Rush will be interred with Nancy at Christ Church, Greenville, South Carolina. He is survived by his son James, daughter-in-law Annalisa Erba and granddaughter Lucia Erba-Beeler.
Rush would want it said that the William & Mary and Williamsburg communities were very special to his family, and there are still family friends there to this day. When his son asked in recent years about his long career teaching, Rush said he really couldn’t take much credit for it, because he had enjoyed it so much. Rush was warm, generous, keenly erudite and by default self-effacing and good-natured. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.