September 29, 1947 – August 31, 2023
Father, son, brother, partner, Grandpa, Papa, BopBop, Johnny Boy
John Beach died on the evening of August 31, 2023, after a courageous five-year fight against the ravages of his Parkinson’s Disease. John was predeceased by his parents, Robert B. Beach, Sr., and Patricia Feher Beach, as well as his younger brother, Robert B. Beach, Jr. He was a graduate of Immaculate Conception School and Ithaca High School (1965). John pursued a degree in Business Administration at Ithaca College where he graduated in 1969. During his time in college, his burgeoning love of music and activism was on full display when he and friends disc jockeyed a 56-hour takeover of his college radio station, WICB, to raise money for rural and migrant families. This is a memory he recounted fondly.
Following his graduation, he became a committed member of his hometown community for the duration of his life. He served as Probation Supervisor of the Criminal Court Division of the Tompkins County Probation Department. He then found his calling in 1989 as the first Tompkins County STOP-DWI Coordinator. Twenty years earlier, his brother Bobby was killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver, before drunk driving was considered a crime. John spent well over a decade raising awareness of the perils of drunk, drugged, and other impaired driving, working to improve legislation and law enforcement. He was the co-founder of the New York STOP-DWI Foundation and Chair of the New York State STOP-DWI Coordinators Association. He received the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Commendation for Outstanding Contribution in New York State in 1996. He rounded out his service to the County by serving as chair of the Tompkins County Criminal Justice/Alternatives to Incarceration Board before his retirement.
Upon his retirement from County employment, John dedicated his time to his real love: Jazz. At first subbing for the WVBR radio program, “Miles Ahead,” John eventually became the permanent host in 2003. Every Sunday afternoon for three hours, he filled homes near and far with jazz favorites and deep cuts. In his own unique style, he educated listeners to the story behind the performer or performance, sharing obscure bits of music history he found through his extensive weekly research. He continued in that role until May 2019; a long run, exceeded only in quantity by the extensive vinyl record collection that he’d accumulated over the years (he bragged that he still had every piece of music he’d purchased since he was eight years old).
John was a devoted son of Ithaca, volunteering his time to local organizations while serving on multiple boards and committees. He served on the School Board for Immaculate Conception School; was Founder and First Board Chair of the Tompkins Employee Day Care Center; was on the Board of Directors of the Finger Lakes Runners Club; served as Vice President of the Board of Trustees for the Community School of Music and Art. He was a member of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail Client Committee, the Ithaca High School Athletic Boosters Executive Committee, the City of Ithaca Board of Public Works and the Planning and Development Board, the Town of Ithaca Planning Board, and a member of No. 7’s Volunteer Fire Department. He rounded out his community action by serving on the Finance Committee for the Immaculate Conception Church Parish and volunteered at the Food Pantry affiliated with the Church until he was no longer able. Additionally, John did the things that dads do that bring the most joy. He volunteered and otherwise supported his own four children and many others in area youth sports, scouting, academic scholarship, and community leadership mentoring.
He leaves behind many family members and friends who will forever remember his commitment to service, his adoration of music, and his devotion to his beloved NY Yankees, Giants, Rangers, and St. Bonaventure University Basketball. First and foremost are his four children, who inherited his intense love of music and with whom he shared his favorite jazz album (Kind of Blue by Miles Davis). Surviving their father are the loves of his life: Alison M. Beach (Beau Saul); Aaron C. Beach (April); Zachary C. Beach; and Alexander M. Beach. His grandchildren Clara Subin, Timothy Beach, Jacob Beach, Samuel Beach, Shaelan Beach, and Cameron Beach. His devoted partner, Joanne Denison, with whom he spent the last 17 years; her children (Amy & Kevin Gentz; Becky Denison; Hannah & Jason Scott; Jessica Denison) and her grandchildren (Gabrielle, Maguire, Jameson, Juliet). His siblings Mary Ann Stillwell (Chuck), Michael Beach (Helen), and Beth Beach (Chuck Kronen). Many nieces and nephews, his best buds John & Dorothy Sholeen, his dear college friend Jess Nadelman, and Kristine DeLuca, who will carry on watching over their shared children and grandchildren in his absence.
John was a man of deep faith. We can only hope that he is now at peace and enjoying full mobility reuniting with passed family members. As he said at the conclusion of his run at WVBR, “It’s been a joy!”
The family will receive those who shared in the joy of knowing John Beach on September 25 from 4-6 p.m. at Perkins Funeral Home in Dryden. A Catholic Mass of Celebration in John’s honor will be held at 10 a.m. on September 26 at Immaculate Conception Church. For those who wish to honor John’s life, please make donations in his memory to Hospicare of Ithaca, Rock Steady Boxing, and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
We are grateful to the many healthcare providers and individuals who cared for John and our family along the way. In the words of the Beatles: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Thank you for returning the love John made for all of his years.