Joan Bean’s Doorway To Dance

Joan Bean led a full life and made a lasting impression on those she met along the way. An outdoor community send off (with social distancing) for Ms. Bean is planned.

The Bean School of Dance

Fernandina’s downtown doorway to dance began to fill with flowers Thursday morning, April 23rd, as soon as the sad news of Joan Bean’s passing started filter throughout the community. We walked past the studio on this very windy morning as a big black bow was being tied to the holly tree out front.

The Bean School of Dance was built at this spot on North 3rd Street in Fernandina Beach back in 1986. Its founder, known as “Ms. Bean,” was a prominent resident and accomplished member of the business community. Admired by many, she will be greatly missed.

Local parents and kids have spent far too many hours to count, behind the doors at the dance studio. Not just a doorway to dance, once past the threshold, it was a nurturing environment for the kids, where friendships formed. It was a place of community and conversation. Parents caught up with each other and chatted about the “talk of the town” at this gathering spot, as they waited during dance lessons. At least, this is the way it was in our experience 20 years ago, when we sat along the hallway or in the room overlooking the practice studio.

Joan Bean had been a resident of Fernandina dating back to her arrival from Kentucky in 1950. Long before her downtown studio location, she taught dance lessons at various places like the Rec Center, and in the basement of her home. Generations of Fernandina’s citizens have been involved with the Bean School.

City Flags At Half-Staff

On April 23rd, Fernandina’s Mayor, Johnny Miller, ordered flags at all city facilities be lowered to half-staff until 5 p.m. on April 30, 2020 in recognition of Joan Bean.

Once, Twice, Three Times A Lady

Joan Bean was last photographed by Amelia Island Living as “Lady Liberty,” in the 2019 Veterans Day Parade. But we’ve taken various photos over the years (a few of this wonderful lady are below).

Joan Bean, 2019 Veterans Day Parade
Joan Bean, Lady Liberty, 2014 Veterans Day Parade
Joan Bean, 2014 Veterans Day Parade
Joan Bean, Lady Liberty, 2012 Veterans Day Parade
Joan Bean, 2012 Veterans Day Parade

Ms. Bean tugged the heart strings of so many with music and dance. She made men cry at recitals with “Daddy’s Little Girl,” when tiny dancers moved to the music, holding pictures of fathers in their sweet little hands. And as a vocal citizen, she made people laugh and clap at city meetings, when her wit, frankness, and common sense was on display.

Community Performances

She proudly rode the school’s float as her students danced along the street in various parades every year. In what has turned out to be her very last Shrimp Festival parade appearance in 2019, Ms. Bean’s bikini T-shirt is an inkling of her personality. She made many people smile, a gift in itself.

Joan Bean, 2019 Shrimp Festival Parade, Fernandina Beach
Joan Bean, 2019 Shrimp Fest Parade
Heading Down Ash Street, 2019 Shrimp Fest Parade
Family Matriarch

Twice widowed and the matriarch of a very large family, Ms. Bean had nine children, plus many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Our thoughts are with the Bean family at this time of loss.

Joan Bean had moved to Fernandina with her first husband, “Red” Bean, who passed away long ago at the age of 64. She later married Wayne Gilbert, who died only a few years after they were wed.

Youngest son, Aaron Bean, like his mom, is also a well-known member of the community, currently serving Nassau County (and part of Duval) as a State Senator, District 4. Aaron previously served as city commissioner and also as Mayor of Fernandina Beach. His dad, “Red” Bean had also been a city commissioner back in the 1980s.

The Tender Years

Parents collect memorabilia through the years, as their kids grow up. Such as school awards, art projects, sports trophies, photographs, videos, and more. Our family’s collection includes those tiny pink ballet shoes from about 20 years ago, and the recital costumes. Keepsakes of the tender years, a precious time of childhood innocence. Such moments in life go by too fast. We’re thankful for the warm memories made at the Bean School.

Bid Farewell

Joan Bean led a full life and made a lasting impression on those she met along the way. An outdoor community send off (with social distancing) for Ms. Bean is planned. Spread out along downtown streets to bid farewell as the funeral procession moves through Fernandina on Monday morning, April 27, 2020, departing Oxley-Heard Funeral Home at 10:30 a.m. (See details of route further below).

Aaron Bean shared the following message on Facebook 4/25/2020:

“Our family invites you to say goodbye to our mother as she heads to her final resting place. While we are so sorry that we cannot gather as a community at church or even at graveside, we are taking her on a final drive through town Monday at 10:30. We will travel past her beloved St. Michael’s, the Bean School of Dance and the home where she and Red raised nine children and taught countless more to dance in the basement before heading to Bosque Bello.

Funeral Procession Route

April 27th at 10:30 AM — Leaving Oxley-Heard and heading west on Atlantic Ave. to downtown. Turning right on North 4th St. and going past St. Michael’s Church. Turning left on Calhoun and left on 3rd, bringing Ms. Bean past her studio on North 3rd Street. The procession will then be turning left on Centre Street and head east, then making a left on North 15th Street. Then turning left again, onto Broome St., and making a right onto North 14th Street, heading to Bosque Bello Cemetery where she will be laid to rest (family-only service).

Oxley-Heard Funeral Home

According to Oxley-Heard, at the age of 94, “Mrs. Joan D. Bean passed away on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at Baptist Medical Center-Nassau. She will be laid to rest next to her husband in Bosque Bello Cemetery (as noted above, this will be private, family-only service). Condolences can be posted online at the Oxley-Heard Funeral Home’s website.

For more about Joan Bean’s life, see a recent reprint of an insightful profile, published in the News-Leader.


By The Editor

Observations of island life, news & opinion by Wendy Lawson. With background that began at a newspaper, she later spent 14 years in the financial services and real estate industries (managing editor at an equity research publishing firm). She's enjoyed the laid-back Amelia Island lifestyle since 1993.