Beverly Bouwsma

Beverly Bouwsma
1924 - 2015

Beverly Jean Bouwsma was born June 13, 1924 in Minot, ND, the first of four children born to Ernest and Eldrice Hancock. The family soon relocated to Lincoln Nebraska where her father set up practice as a pediatrician and her mother taught music.

Beverly attended public schools in Lincoln, and went on to the University of Nebraska where she studied literature. During this time she began a courtship with Bill Bouwsma while he was home from college on Christmas break. They wrote many letters, and Beverly transferred to Radcliffe to spend a very happy year there. In 1944 she set aside her studies to marry Bill.

They spent their first year of marriage in Denver where Bill was stationed while serving in the army. In 1945 they moved back to Cambridge, MA so Bill could begin graduate studies. There they had their first two children, John and Philip.

In 1950 the family moved to Illinois where Bill got his first teaching position. They had two more children there, Paul and Sarah. Beverly loved being a mother and stayed home to raise the children, although she took time out every week to sing in a chorus. She later kept a grand piano which she played regularly, both jazz and classical.

In '56 Bill landed a position teaching Renaissance history at Berkeley. There Beverly came into her own as a faculty wife and hostess of many wonderful dinner parties. The family spent a year in Florence in 1960 where Bill could research his area of expertise, and Beverly learned some cooking techniques that would bring her dinners to a whole new level.

In the '60s Beverly's parties even expanded to include dancing and rock music. In '69 Beverly and Bill spent two years on the east coast. When they returned to Berkeley they bought a house on La Loma and resumed their many deep friendships. Beverly took on a number of challenging volunteer jobs, including working with homeless people and teaching English to Laotians.

Beverly had a rare gift for humor, friendships, music, excellent cooking and fun social occasions. She made joyful humorous stories out of mishaps. A perfect example is her "Soap Poem" which celebrates her attempt at making soap, resulting in a huge disaster. But the end result was a wonderfully funny poem which she wrote as her Christmas gift to her children that year (instead of the soap.)

Aged 90 and recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure, Beverly passed away peacefully in her room at Piedmont Gardens. She was found apparently asleep in her beloved green chair. She loved sitting in that chair and watching the birds swoop around outside her 9th floor window, writing poetry, and having a glass (or two) of wine in the evening with her friend Hanni who is 95.

She was preceded in death by her husband Bill, who passed away in 2004. She is survived by her three siblings; her four children, John, Philip, Paul and Sarah and their spouses; and eight grandchildren. A celebration of her life will be planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Habitat for Humanity.


We held a memorial for Beverly at the Hillside Club in Berkeley on April 4 2015 and have some material from the event to share.