Where would you take a $100,000 check that is also a suicide note - to the cops or to the bank?
John Francis Beech had a date with destiny last summer. He counted down the days on a calendar in his garage, crossing out each day leading to the final Sunday in July, on which he'd scrawled the word "OUT." But first he had one last bit of business, one final appointment to keep.
On July 17, Beech, a 53-year-old retired Coors manager, drove to Laradon Hall in north Denver. He'd called a few days earlier to arrange a meeting with Annie Green, the acting director of Laradon, a nonprofit that operates an alternative school and other programs for people with developmental disabilities. Beech had never met Green, but he explained on the phone that he was planning to leave his entire estate to Laradon. He was a member of a local Elks club, he added, which had adopted Laradon as its primary charity.
Green readily agreed to see him. But then she was unexpectedly called away by a death in her family. Although she tried to cancel all her appointments, Beech showed up on July 17 anyway. He handed a large white envelope to the receptionist and asked that it be delivered to Green.
Laradon's director found the envelope in her mailbox when she returned to work four days later. On the back, in handwritten block letters, were six words: WAIT UNTILL YOU HEAR FROM CORONER. And below that, in parentheses: PLEASE DONT CALL EVERYTHING IS OK.
Despite the plea to wait, Green opened the envelope. Inside was the original of Beech's Last Will and Testament, which left all his worldly goods to Laradon Hall.
The envelope contained keys to Beech's house in Lakewood and instructions about selling the house and its contents, closing his bank account and collecting funds owed to him by a bail bondsman and others. There was also a check made out to Laradon for $100,000 and dated August 1 — two weeks after the day Beech delivered the documents.
Having ignored the first message on the envelope, Green disregarded the second, too. She would later claim to have left voice-mail messages for Beech twice over the next two days, to thank him for his startling generosity — and to see if everything was indeed okay. But Beech didn't call back, and Green apparently made no further efforts to contact him.
The postdated check went into a safe at Laradon.
On August 1, the day the check became negotiable, Lakewood police officers entered Beech's house, not far from the Bear Creek Golf Course. They'd been summoned there by a neighbor, who'd complained of the smell of death seeping from the property.
Taped to Beech's front door was a handwritten note: COME BACK ON THE 1ST THANKS. Inside, taped to a hallway wall, was another note, affixed like a warning sign: STOP CALL THE CORONER THANKS.
Beech's body was inside a white van parked at the far edge of the back yard. He'd rigged up a hose from the exhaust and tried to shield the apparatus from neighbors' view with a blue tarp. He'd left his wallet, keys, car titles, a copy of the will and other documents neatly arranged on a kitchen table. It was a very polite suicide, designed to do minimal damage to the value of his house and possessions and generate the least fuss possible. But there was no note explaining why — just stop call the coroner thanks.
Investigators snapped pictures of the scene, including the garage calendar showing the countdown that ended with "OUT" on July 27. But receipts found in the house indicated Beech was still alive on the evening of July 28; he'd apparently purchased additional materials for his death rig that day, then treated himself to a banana split at a Sonic drive-in. At some point in the early hours of July 29, he died from carbon monoxide inhalation.
Beech had a mother, three sisters and a brother. The news of his death left them and other relatives reeling in shock and bewilderment. Jack, as he was known to his younger siblings, had always been the family's pillar of strength — the oldest, the most confident, the one who was the life of the party. He collected beautiful cars and performed magic tricks in bars; he had money, globe-trotting adventures and lots of girlfriends. He'd never shown signs of depression and, as far as they knew, had never been treated for mental illness. He'd never talked about suicide around them — except to express outrage when an old friend took his own life in 2007. Why, Jack had seethed, didn't the guy come to him for help?
But Jack was also an extremely private person. He'd disappear for weeks on a trip or something, then abruptly resurface. The family knew there were parts of his life he simply didn't share with them, and maybe not with anyone. "If you needed help, he'd give you the shirt off his back," says his brother, David Beech, a news director for a television station in Reno, Nevada. "But if you tried to help him with anything, he'd refuse. He was like a father; he was our father."
Carole Shultz, one of Beech's sisters, had talked to him frequently last summer, right up until two weeks before he died. "He was calling me all the time," says Shultz, an airline employee who lives in Golden. "He would latch on to certain people. You wouldn't see him for months, then he'd show up and hang around until four in the morning. The last conversation we had, Jack's phone died. He had to get more minutes, and then he left a long, long message about all kinds of stuff. But it was nothing special."
Searching for answers, the siblings pored over the copy of Jack's will left on the kitchen table. The document contained several peculiar requests. No obituary or memorial service, and the crematorium was instructed to dispose of his ashes. (Jack had once watched a neighbor get evicted, Shultz recalled, and was horrified to see the urn containing the tenant's husband's ashes lying in the street.) Beech had designated the director of Laradon Hall as his executor and asked her not to inform the Elks chapter in Evergreen of his death for six months.
Why not tell the Elks? And what was the connection to Laradon? Jack Beech had a developmentally disabled half-sister, ten years his junior, but she'd never received any services from the organization. Shultz and Dave Beech decided to pay a visit to Laradon Hall to see if they could obtain his ashes — and to find out what the people there knew about their brother.
They met with Annie Green on August 6. Accounts of what was said during the meeting vary. Laradon's attorneys maintain that Green disclosed that she'd received a $100,000 check from the deceased, but his siblings say she failed to mention the donation; they claim they only found out about it from the register of Jack's checkbook. It's clear, though, that Green showed them the envelope Jack Beech had left for her, and that the words on that envelope — WAIT UNTILL YOU HEAR FROM CORONER — deeply troubled her visitors.
The Beech siblings say they're not upset that Jack decided to leave his estate to Laradon Hall. They wonder, though, how anyone could have seen those words and not respond in some way — arrange for a welfare check, maybe, call 911 or the lawyer listed on the will, a suicide hotline, somebody.
"If my brother was killed in a car wreck and decided to do this with his money, we'd have been so happy for Laradon," says Dave Beech. "We'd be sitting around saying this was so typical of Jack and so wonderful. But under these circumstances, this is very difficult for us. They had warning signs on one hand and dollar signs on the other. If you ignore the warning signs, what should be the consequences?"
Two weeks after the meeting with Green, members of the Beech family filed objections in Jefferson County's probate court, seeking to prevent Laradon from collecting Jack's estate. In effect, the family contends that the organization had advance notice of Jack's suicide plans but did nothing to intervene because it stood to benefit from his death. In court filings, their attorney has scolded Laradon for rushing to get Green appointed as the estate administrator, knowing a challenge to the will was pending, and for the unusual timing of the cashing of the $100,000 check — which was deposited in a bank not on August 1 but on August 6, approximately thirty minutes after Green's meeting with the Beech family ended. Laradon shouldn't profit from its conduct, Beech's family insists, any more than a scheming heir should be allowed to benefit from bumping off an aged uncle.
"They should have nothing," says Shultz. She believes that Laradon, an organization that frequently deals with children and adults who have mental-health issues, has no excuse for ignoring what she regards as an obvious cry for help. "They should have known what the words meant," she adds. "They should be held to a higher standard."
Through her lawyers, Green declined to comment on the case. Laradon has issued a written statement expressing sympathy for the family but denying any responsibility for Beech's death: "Laradon had no knowledge that Mr. Beech intended to take his own life. It is Laradon's intention to continue honoring Mr. Beech's memory and his decision to benefit Laradon."
Just how Beech arrived at his final decisions may never be known. Suicide is rarely a straightforward affair. People thinking about killing themselves don't always exhibit obvious symptoms of depression or despair. They're not all recluses or mental patients with a long history of self-destructive behavior. Some are even the life of the party.
But experts say that potential suicides often signal their intentions — sometimes to strangers. Many suicides are preventable, if people only pay attention. And Jack Beech, in his own tricky way, showed many of the classic signs of suicide well before the night he ended it all.
Friends remember Beech as a loner, a maverick, a dancer to that different drum. He even had his own arrangements with the time-space continuum: There was clock time, and there was Beech time, meaning he could be relied on to show up for dinner a couple of hours later than he said he would. He entered people's lives at unexpected times and vanished just as abruptly. For Beech, if life was worth living, it was worth living fast.
Born in Akron, Ohio, the son of an over-the-road trucker, Jack came to Colorado in 1964, at the age of nine, after his parents' marriage unraveled. His mother, Elizabeth Malonson, brought him and his younger siblings to live with their cousins; at one point, there were nine kids in the same house, scrambling for attention.
Jack made friends with a boy down the block whose uncle had helped launch Estes Rockets, the local catalogue company that spread propulsion technology to thousands of astronaut wannabes. You could find the Beech house on the Fourth of July by following the explosions and clouds of smoke generated by a neighborhood war of revolution, waged with pop-bottle rockets and Roman candles, firecrackers and other flying engines of destruction.
At Lakewood High, Beech got interested in shop, filmmaking and music — especially Elvis and the Beatles. He would one day take a trip to England chiefly so he could visit the street crossing featured on the cover of Abbey Road. He bought a baby grand piano from a Denver hotel because John Lennon was said to have played on it. But his most consuming and lasting passion, even greater than his obsession with the Fab Four, involved the internal combustion engine.
"Jack loved cars," his brother says. "But cars didn't always love him back."
"His first car was a Camaro Z28," adds Shultz. "He had it for one weekend, then crashed it at Colfax and Kipling. My first car, he test-drove it for me — and crashed it two blocks from our house."
Beech took up skydiving at one point, and broke a leg. Being a daredevil was not, it seems, his true calling.
In 1974 he joined Coors, right out of high school. It was a decision he never regretted. He stayed with the company for twenty years, rising to middle management and fixing up and selling rental properties in his spare time. He also bought and restored classic cars — a '57 Chevy, a '72 Stingray, a '63 Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes 500 SL, a slew of 'vettes and Beetles — that he kept immaculately maintained. In his thirties, he branched into limos; wearing a chauffeur's cap, he'd score prime parking at clubs and sports arenas, then ditch the cap, crawl into the back and emerge with his buddies, a mysterious VIP with his own entourage.
He learned simple magic tricks as a way of overcoming his shyness in social situations, particularly with women. He was a tall, lanky, handsome man who seemed to get more attractive as he matured. Yet many of his relationships with the opposite sex didn't last as long as a tank of gas.
That was apparently by design. The pain of his own parents' divorce and subsequent breakups among other friends made a lasting impression on him. "He decided at a young age that he would never have kids and never get married," says Shultz. "He did have a lot of girlfriends, though. He hit on every single friend I've had in my life."
At parties, when people started pulling out pictures of their children, Beech would offer to show them "his kids" — and produce a snapshot of baby goats. Or maybe they'd like to admire his Pride and Joy; he kept a picture of the two household cleaners in his wallet, too. Corny stuff, but it was a way of needling the insufferably proud parents around him. Yet for a guy who had no interest in having children of his own, he spent a great deal of time playing with and bragging about his sisters' kids.
"The John I knew loved life," says Earbie Hurd, who began as Beech's supervisor in the Coors can plant and became one of his closest friends and an occasional roommate. "He had tons of friends. He was open and honest, and if you'd met him, you'd think he was the happiest guy in the world."
One night years ago, when Hurd was renting part of Beech's house, he came home from work and found Beech grinding up worms. He'd been trimming old trees at one of his properties that day, Beech explained, and found a nest of baby birds in one of the downed branches. He fed them worms until he could get the nest back into the tree.
Other people's lives revolve around their families. Beech had his work, his cars, and the easy laughter and short-fused romances one finds in bars — and if all that wasn't enough, there was the occasional impulsive trip to Jerusalem or Paris or some damn place. But then the work went away. In 1994 Beech took a buyout from Coors; he was not yet forty, and suddenly had time on his hands.
For a while he found diversion — and a surprising amount of success — in the casinos of Black Hawk. He told his brother that he'd developed a system for the slots. When Dave told him he was full of BS, Jack pulled out a wad of tax forms, the kind casinos issue when paying out five-figure jackpots. "Tell me how much BS this is," he said.
Jack explained that he would hit the casinos on Sunday night — when, he claimed, some slots were "looser" in order to meet the required percentage of payouts for the week. Sometimes he would lose, of course, but relatives say his picture showed up frequently in casino ads, clutching a big check. "One time he was down at this one machine and played until he felt he broke even," Dave Beech recalls. "As he was walking out the door, he put a buck and a quarter into a progressive slot — and walked away with $89,000."
Lucky Jack plowed his winnings into rental properties in Golden and Denver. He owned several duplexes and apartment buildings over a period of years, but dealing with demanding and irresponsible tenants wore him down. After he discovered one unit had been converted into a paintball range by the occupant, he decided to get out of the business. He sold off the properties and was once more at loose ends.
He took exotic jobs for a few weeks or months at a time. He didn't need the money, he told his siblings; he just wanted to find out what the business was like, maybe start one of his own. He worked as an exterminator and for a crime-scene cleanup operation. He even took off for a coal mine in Wyoming.
"He'd get bored," says Dave Beech. "Looking back on it now, I wonder if he was manic-depressive. He was so restless. He worked at a coal mine because he wanted to drive the train that loads and unloads the coal."
As his fiftieth birthday loomed, Beech decided that he wanted to ride a bicycle across America. He rode from Denver to Chicago, down to Florida, back through Texas, then abruptly stopped in New Mexico, got on a bus and came home. He never explained why he didn't finish the trip.
Last spring he was talking about buying a garage and detailing cars; he paid enough for his own vehicles' care that he figured there must be money in it. But first he wanted to visit the Henry Ford Museum and a car auction in the upper Midwest. On May 1, his 53rd birthday, his sister Carole left a phone message for him.
"He didn't call me back for three days," she says. "And that's how we found out he was in trouble."
Jack told her he had just spent several days in jail in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was facing a felony charge. He didn't believe he'd done anything wrong, and he was absolutely furious about it.
The way Jack told the story, the whole thing was crazy and unjust. He was minding his own business, heading down the road in the clunky white van he used for long trips because he could sleep in back, when the cops pulled him over for — get this — driving too slow. A flimsy pretext, maybe, for stopping a van with out-of-state plates, but what can you do?
They asked to search, and he said okay, forgetting about the handgun wrapped in a coat under the seat. Years before, Beech had been mugged at gunpoint in Las Vegas, an experience that convinced him to bring a weapon along whenever he went on the road with cash in his pocket. The gun wasn't even loaded, he told Shultz, but that didn't make any difference to the Michigan gendarmes. They charged him with violating local conceal-carry laws and tossed him in the pokey.
He had a couple thousand dollars in cash when they arrested him. The bail was three thousand, more than that of some of the wife-beaters in the same jail. He had lots of cash in Colorado, but all his contact numbers were on his cell phone, which they'd taken away from him. And the local bail bondsmen — get this — wouldn't take a collect phone call! So he spent several days in the tank, doing magic tricks and making new friends, until he found a bondsman who would answer the phone and could be persuaded that Jack Beech, a high roller and man of property, was good for a measly grand or two.
It was insane, really — but not the only time Beech would find himself oddly pinched for cash. He'd also had trouble buying a new pickup truck. Most of his money was tied up in fixed investments, so he went to his bank for a loan. He had a million dollars in certificates of deposit at that bank, he told his sister, but they turned him down anyway, saying he didn't have enough liquidity. He was livid about that, but even more burned about the arrest. It meant several trips back to Michigan for hearings and a possible felony conviction.
Shultz wonders if the arrest could have been a "trigger event" for her brother, the kind of traumatic experience that sends a potential suicide into a downward spiral. Beech had a court date in Michigan on August 5, a week after his death. In the written instructions he left at Laradon, he asked Green to call the bail bondsman and collect $500 of his money before that date.
But Susan Harris, the family's attorney in the probate case, says it's likely that Beech would have received nothing worse than a fine and probation for the gun charge. And parts of his plan were apparently already in motion before his arrest. He had first visited Laradon Hall in February, five months before he left the package for Green; he'd told the receptionist his name and informed her that he was planning to give all of his money to Laradon. The receptionist noted that he was wearing an Elks shirt. The development coordinator was away from her desk at the time, and Beech left without talking to anyone else. The will that Green eventually received was executed in March — several weeks before his trip to Michigan.
Doing a little estate planning is not in itself evidence of suicidal thinking; still, in such matters, context is critical. A list of common warning signs prepared by the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention includes "giving away favorite possessions," "inappropriate goodbyes" and "reckless actions." It also mentions "verbal behavior that is ambiguous or indirect," such as talking about going away for a long time. ("Wait until you hear from coroner" would probably be considered less ambiguous than the list's examples.) But while Beech was able to hide his intentions from almost all of his family and friends, at least one person had picked up warning signs from him for years.
"John was the sweetest man I ever knew — and the most complicated," says Linda Allen, a former girlfriend. "I don't know if he was ever diagnosed, but you could tell that he was bipolar. He would be on top of the mountain, and then he'd fall to the bottom. He talked to me a lot about suicide."
A psychic and "spiritual counselor," Allen has occasionally consulted with police and claims to have predicted several cataclysmic events, including the September 11 attacks. But Beech remained an enigma to her throughout a sporadic romance that stretched over seven years. The pair met in 1999, when one of Allen's clients introduced Beech to her at a party at Allen's house.
"He kept asking me, 'Did we meet before?'" Allen recalls. "And I finally told him, 'We did, but not in this lifetime.'"
The two soon became frequent traveling companions. It was different from Beech's other, brief relationships with women; Allen was nine years older than he was, and Beech seemed to genuinely enjoy talking about spiritual matters with her. "We took 27 trips together," Allen says. "Mexico, Las Vegas, everywhere. We spent a lot of time out of town, and he was wonderful. But when we came back, he was a different person. He never drank around me. When he'd leave me, he'd go on binges, and nobody would hear from him."
Beech downplayed his drinking to her. But his absences became more prolonged — two weeks, then three, then four. After they'd been seeing each other for a year, he admitted that he went through bouts of depression. "I've even fantasized about taking myself out, and you with me," he said, then quickly added that he would never do any such thing.
On another occasion, after Allen hadn't heard from Beech for six weeks, she finally got him on the phone. He told her he'd been in bed.
"At two in the afternoon?" she asked.
"For the past six weeks," he told her. "I can't get up. I hurt all over."
Allen urged Beech to see a doctor about his depression. But he had a deep-rooted aversion to doctors and medication. He told her he had checked into an institution for a few weeks in his thirties, when he still worked at Coors, because of the death of a girlfriend and pressure at work — and he wasn't eager to repeat the experience. He took greater comfort in his church, the Mile Hi Church of Religious Science. Religious Science doesn't have the same harsh attitude toward medicine and psychiatry as Christian Science — or Scientology, with which it's frequently confused — but it does preach the healing of the sick through the power of the Universal Mind, which is God.
Beech's cousin, Scott Malonson, says that Jack had very strong opinions about psychiatric drugs. Beech let Malonson stay with him in his house in Conifer in 2001, at a time when Malonson was taking antidepressants and recovering from a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and the end of his first marriage. "He looked at my pills and said, 'You really don't need to be taking that stuff,'" Malonson recalls. "He always gave the impression that he was strong in mind, that he could rise above things."
One time when he was out with Allen, Beech drove by his church to show it to her. They sat quietly in the parking lot for a while, and then he asked, "Do you think God forgives you if you take your own life?"
Allen didn't know what to say. She talked about life being a precious gift. "He laid his head on the steering wheel and just cried," she recalls. "He stayed with me a couple of days after that. I tried to get him to move in with me. Maybe people is what he needed."
But Beech wasn't interested in living with anyone, much less marriage; he told her that there was no marriage he knew of that had worked. Allen may have been one of his lifelines, but he reached out to her less and less. Months went by without any word from him, then an entire year. When he resurfaced, they were still friends, but that was all.
The last time Allen saw him was in December 2007. He called out of the blue and dropped by for fifteen minutes. He complained about losing his hair — he'd skipped several family events, including weddings, because he refused to take off his baseball cap — and announced that he wasn't drinking anymore.
"It was like he was saying goodbye," she says. "When he left my house that night, I knew I would never see him again."
Allen sent him a copy of her just-published book, The Night of the Witching Moon. It was returned as undeliverable; he'd moved from Conifer to Lakewood without telling her. When she heard of his arrest a few months later, she wrote to him, offering to help. She received no response.
But Beech still thought about her. He started crossing off days on his calendar on June 23 — Linda Allen's birthday.
He told his real-estate agent that his balding pate, speckled with hair plugs, was the result of chemotherapy, and that he was thinking about selling his house and "moving on." In the last weeks of his life, he spent a great deal of time painting the house. He seemed quite pleased with the results.
A smiling, friendly demeanor doesn't preclude suicide, notes Bill Porter, a clinical psychologist and the director of mental-health services for the Cherry Creek School District.
"In many cases, people relate that the person was relatively happy," he says. "There's a conflict between the part that wants to live and the part that wants to die, and that conflict has been resolved."
The package Beech left at Laradon in July may well have been his last effort to test the world and see if anyone was paying attention. "People who are suicidal will run up the flag to see what people do," Porter says. "On very few occasions do they not give some kind of sign. Unfortunately, people don't know what to do with it."
Laradon Hall was named after Larry and Donald, the severely retarded sons of Joe and Elizabeth Calabrese. The Calabreses were appalled at the way children like their own were routinely institutionalized, so in 1948 they set up a boarding and day school on Federal Boulevard for the developmentally disabled. Through hard work, determination and luck, the school flourished. Elizabeth Calabrese went on the popular television show Queen for a Day to publicize the cause; Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Jack Benny and other celebrities raised money and brought the checks to north Denver.
In 1950, the Colorado Elks designated Laradon as the fraternal organization's "major project." It's remained that way ever since; although the Elks' contributions amount to only a small percentage of Laradon's $11 million annual budget, several Elks sit on the board of directors of the parent nonprofit, the Laradon Hall Society for Exceptional Children and Adults.
After Joe Calabrese died, in 1986, the organization went through a rocky transition period. (A 1988 Westword article reported on morale and money issues, feuding directors and staff.) Laradon is now is a much more complex entity than the boardinghouse the Calabreses started sixty years ago; it offers a range of programs, including adult employment and residential services, and is currently in the process of expanding its school at 5100 Lincoln Street.
Annie Green has worked at Laradon since the turmoil of the 1980s. She'd served as Laradon's acting director for only a short time last summer when Jack Beech left his package for her. The previous director had resigned effective in early July, and a new one was hired in the fall. Green, who was a candidate for the top job, is now Laradon's deputy director, in charge of development and fundraising. At the heart of the battle over Beech's estate is his family's belief that Green should have looked at one particularly large and unusual gift more carefully.
Elizabeth Malonson, Jack's mother, initially questioned whether her son had been of sound mind when he prepared the will. Those claims have since been dropped. What remains is what's known as a "public policy" claim — basically, that Laradon shouldn't profit from the will when it received such a glaring warning of suicide and made so little effort to save its donor.
Questioned by Malonson's attorneys, Green conceded that she'd never received an original will from a donor before; usually, nonprofits are notified of such bequests by estate attorneys after the donor's death. She said she found the package "odd" but not alarming, and suggested that the language about the coroner could mean that the man had a terminal illness.
Green's attorneys have maintained that she had no way of knowing that Beech was in imminent danger of suicide. They say Laradon is just trying to honor Beech's will, that he clearly wanted his modest estate — which had dwindled to around $250,000 at the time of his death, including the check and property — to go to help Laradon's clients.
But Malonson's attorney, Susan Harris, says the message Beech left for Green was unmistakable. "The only people he revealed his suicide plan to was Laradon Hall," she says. "There's no note that says, 'I'm going to commit suicide,' but there's a lot of indications. Who gives their house keys and financial information to a perfect stranger? He writes about the coroner, about where to find his car titles — and here's a postdated check for $100,000. One of the classic signs of impending suicide is the property giveaway.
"Laradon Hall deals with the mental-health issues of the clients it serves," Harris continues. "They have psychologists on board, all kinds of mental-health professionals. They do assessment; they do treatment. But they never tried to save him. They didn't contact him. They didn't call a hotline. They didn't talk to one of their own psychologists. They stuck the check in their safe."
Green apparently did mention the unusual bequest to the chair of Laradon's board of directors, John Amen, at a regularly scheduled board meeting shortly after she received the package. But Amen, a state officer in the Elks, didn't know John Beech, and the conversation didn't lead to any followup.
Whether the family can keep Laradon from collecting the estate may be decided at a hearing in Jefferson County probate court next month. Harris acknowledges that there isn't much precedent for holding a nonprofit accountable for a suicide, particularly if that organization had no professional or medical relationship with the deceased.
"We have no case like it anywhere in the country," she says. "Here you have an omission to act, with the knowledge that you may benefit from a person's death. What incentive do you have to try to prevent that from happening? The fact is, it's so easy to call and ask for a welfare check."
Scott Malonson thinks he knows why his cousin chose to take his package of keys and instructions to a complete stranger. "If he had gone to family, we would have intervened," he says. "I would have said, 'Dude, what are you doing?'"
Schultz believes her brother was too afraid of the social stigma associated with mental illness to confide in his family; shame might also explain his request not to inform the Elks of his death for six months. On Jack's refrigerator, she found one of Ashleigh Brilliant's "Pot-Shots," clipped from the newspaper, which asks, "Why does society punish us so severely for trying to escape from ourselves?"
After he learned of Beech's death, Scott Malonson volunteered to put together a memorial DVD. He assembled dozens of photographs of Jack, from childhood to baseball-cap-affixed middle age, into a montage with music: "If I Dream," by Elvis, "In My Life" and "Let It Be," by the Beatles. He spent four days on the project and finished it in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. But he knew he had to do it for Jack.
"If you knew him, you have something he gave to you," he says. "Whether he helped you with something, taught you something, showed you some magic, there's a piece of him in you. He gave something to everyone he met — friendship, a smile, something."
Beech gave Laradon Hall everything he had left. The nonprofit has a policy of acknowledging donations in writing, but Laradon never sent Jack Beech a thank-you note for his generous check.
"There has never been one admission from them," says Dave Beech, "that maybe, just maybe, they did something wrong."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.