CAPTAIN BARCLAY BOYD BEEBY
NAMESAKE OF THE BEEBY WING – ALTON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
The Captain Barclay Boyd Beeby Wing at Alton Memorial Hospital was constructed in 1977. A trust of almost $3 million dollars was established in Barclay’s memory by his father, John “Jack” Beeby, upon his death in 1971, and by his mother, Caroline, at her death in 1977. In a brief ceremony in 1981, a bronze plaque, with a portrait of Beeby was unveiled in the main lobby of the hospital.
John “Jack” J. Beeby was the son of John L. Beeby of Piasa, Macoupin County, Illinois. The Beeby family were pioneer settlers in Macoupin County, and received land grants from the U.S. Government near Piasa in that county. The family were large land owners and prominent farmers in Macoupin County. John “Jack” Beeby married Caroline _______ (unknown), and they had one son, Barclay Boyd Beeby. The family moved to Evergreen Avenue in Upper Alton, where John became an Alderman. In 1919, he became part owner of the ABC Bakery on Front Street in Alton, where he served as the company’s secretary-treasurer. In December 1926, John acquired all of the stock of the company and became the sole owner, with Fred Theen and August Schippert retiring. The bakery was destroyed by fire in 1929, and other bakeries, such as Noll Bakery, offered the use of their ovens while the ABC was being rebuilt. Nolls later bought ABC Bakery, and then sold to Colonial Bakery.
Barclay Boyd Beeby was born in Alton and attended Alton schools, including Shurtleff College. Before joining the military, he was sales manager of the Alton Baking and Ice Cream Company (ABC Bakery). He joined the Air Force in 1942, and flew 25 missions over German and Norway. Lt. Beeby, pilot of a B-17 F bomber, and his crew of nine men, named their plane the “Piasa Bird,” and painted its image on their plane. As a boy, he was a member of the Piasa Bird Council of Boy Scouts, and the symbol carried special significance for him. He said, “The Piasa Bird is about the ugliest thing I know, and if it won’t scare Hitler, I don’t know what will.” In June 1943, he had the opportunity during a practice mission to fly over his parents’ home on Evergreen Street in Upper Alton, and the pilot saluted.
Lt. Beeby was wounded in action in 1943, when his plane was forced out of formation after the propeller of the engine blew off. The propeller went through the side of the plane and wounded Beeby. Rapidly losing altitude, the plane became vulnerable prey for German fighters. Lt. Beeby found an empty field in France, ordered the bombs dropped from the plane, and started back to England. Fire from a German fighter plane, which the Alton flier’s crew finally shot down, wounded the top turret gunner and Lt. Beeby. The plane, with only one of the four motors running, reached England. Lt. Beeby was hospitalized for a short time, but was soon back again at the controls of his plane, flying over Germany. He was later assigned to Puerto Rico for a month, at a B-29 Super Fortress training center. He returned to Upper Alton in March 1944 to give a speech at the Alton Rotary Club. He told of his plane, “Piasa Bird,” flying on one of four motors, and had lost so much altitude he was forced to skim along only a few feet above the ground. Skirting back through France, he flew up behind a peasant driving his wooden wheeled oxcart. He flew right down the road behind the cart, and the driver, suddenly hearing the approach, dove into a water-filled ditch alongside. “Even under the circumstances,” said Lt. Beeby, we couldn’t help laughing.”
On December 30, 1944, at the age of 30, Lt. Barclay Beeby and 13 of his men were killed on a training mission. Word came to his wife, Bernadette C. Beeby, who was visiting at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Coles, at 2400 Brown Street. He had recently been assigned to the Puerto Rican field as Assistant Flight Director, and it was his duty to qualify all B-29 pilots before combat duty. The plane’s landing gear on a Super Fortress failed to operate properly, and the plane had to make a crash landing on its belly. He was considered “one of the finest pilots in the Air Force,” and was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters for “courage, coolness, and skill”, and the Purple Heart. Lt. Beeby was promoted to Captain after his death. He was buried in Puerto Rico.
Bernadette Coles Waters
1919–1990 (m. 1940)
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