A Life: Linwood ‘Skip’ Bean, 1939-2023; ‘Some people can never be replaced’

By JIM KENYON

Valley News Columnist

Published: 11-20-2023 2:41 AM

LEBANON — As an underclassman at Hanover High School, Chris Carroll was fairly certain when he got called to the associate principal’s office early one morning that he was in big trouble.

Although it was almost 50 years ago, bringing a firearm to school was still considered a major no-no.

But Skip Bean, the school’s No. 2 administrator and chief disciplinarian, was willing to hear Carroll out.

In a school where there’s never been a shortage of high achievers, Bean looked out for the kids who were often overlooked — even one who had stashed a 12-gauge shotgun in his locker.

After being dropped off at school that morning by his mother, Carroll carried the shotgun through the hallway which — even in its case — drew attention.

But for Carroll, an avid hunter and fisherman, it wasn’t much different than students who played in the band toting their instruments to school. He was part of a fledgling trapshooting club that met once a week after school at a Norwich gun shop.

It helped Carroll’s case that Bean had a familiarity with firearms. Bean was a former biathlete who narrowly missed qualifying for the 1964 U.S. Olympic team.

Bean told Carroll he wouldn’t be punished. However, Bean kept the shotgun in his office until the end of the school day, when Carroll was allowed to retrieve it.

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“I was surprised when they let me get on the bus with it after school,” Carroll recalled recently.

Bean was “great that way,” Carroll said. “I was one of those kids who was kind of dyslexic and not a fast learner. He was really compassionate towards kids who weren’t excelling in school.”

Bean served as Hanover High’s associate principal for 27 years.

Upon his retirement in 1997, he was presented with a three-ring binder featuring notes from teachers and other staff members that showed how much he meant to the school.

Bean “provided a strong sense of stability down through the years to the school community,” a teacher wrote. “He took the time not just to confront, but to teach and encourage the people he encountered as he dealt with problems.

“All those who were given the benefit of individual attention and encouragement are the beneficiaries of his patience and effort.”

Bean, who dealt with dementia in his last years, died of natural causes at his family’s home in Lebanon on Aug. 15. He was 84.

Bean grew up in Hanover, where his dad worked at a downtown car dealership located where Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts now sits.

A standout student and athlete who graduated from Hanover High in 1957, Bean didn’t venture far when it came time for college. At Dartmouth, he played on the freshman football and baseball but gravitated toward skiing.

Along the way, he was smitten by a young woman who worked as a secretary at the dealership. Bean and Pam Barrett were married in 1961.

Bean graduated from Dartmouth when the U.S. was on the verge of entering the Vietnam War. He had the misfortune of drawing a low number in the military draft.

Bean’s skiing talents, however, served him well. He was assigned to an Army base in Alaska to train as a member of the U.S. biathlon team. (At the time, the team was a division of Army.) He competed throughout Europe and North America in the sport that combines cross country skiing with rifle shooting.

Bean was a leading candidate for the team headed to the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. At the Olympic trials, Bean accidentally skied into the wrong stall during the shooting portion of the competition.

“He shot his buddy’s targets,” said his daughter Patti Dodds, a learning specialist at Richmond Middle School in Hanover. “His buddy went to the Olympics, and he didn’t. But he didn’t feel sorry for himself. He was happy for his friend. It shows how humble he was.”

After his discharge from the Army, Bean and his wife returned to the Upper Valley, where he began his lengthy career in public education. (Pam Bean, who still lives in Lebanon, is a former state legislator and city mayor.)

At Lebanon’s junior high school, Skip Bean started out teaching social studies before becoming the assistant principal.

In 1970, he was hired in Hanover and never left. He turned down numerous offers from communities that wanted him as their high school principal.

“There were plenty of places that Skip and Pam could have gone, but they were Upper Valley people,” said Alice Creagh, Bean’s administrative assistant at Hanover High for 25 years.

During her interview for the assistant’s position, Creagh learned Bean’s approach to his role. Instead of kicking troublemakers out of school, he found ways to “kick them in” in so they’d earn their high school degrees.

“He lived by that,” Creagh said.

Bean was also the school’s “scheduling guru.” In the days before computers handled the task, Bean turned his family’s dining room into his home office, where he mapped out the daily schedules for 600 students and teachers.

“He was our computer before there were computers,” Creagh said.

Whether it was crafting class schedules or weeding his flower garden, her father’s motto was “if you’re not going to do it well, it’s not worth doing,” Dodds said.

In Hanover, when it came time for scheduling classes, Bean heard from more than just students and teachers. “As you can imagine, Hanover is a place where parents have a say,” said Creagh, a Hanover resident.

Along with making class schedules work for “parents who insisted their kids take both French and Latin at the same time,” her boss made sure everyone was treated equally, Creagh said.

Students not considered college material were able to get into the vocational classes that they needed. “He did everything in his power to make sure that students could take courses that were important to their futures,” Creagh said.

In retirement, Bean took a part-time job at Golf and Ski Warehouse in West Lebanon. “He didn’t want to sit around at home,” his daughter Kathy Decker said. “He wanted to keep busy.”

It also allowed him to stay close to golf, a lifelong passion. “His knowledge of golf and also Nordic skiing made him invaluable,” said Eric Michaels, the store’s assistant manager. “He was also such a friendly guy that people would come in just to say hello to him.”

Bean was a longtime member of Carter Country Club in Lebanon, where he not only excelled on the nine-hole course but in the surrounding woods.

He loved “hunting for golf balls” that other players had given up for lost, said his son, Mark. It was a favorite pastime even during family vacations.

“He’d come back with his shirt full of golf balls, and then he’d spend hours washing them,” Mark said.

Bean left an indelible mark on Hanover High.

“It is true that positions can be filled, but some people can never be replaced,” Sherry Pressey, a member of the school staff, wrote in her note upon Bean’s retirement. “You carry with you so much history that few others know. Hanover High will not be the same without ‘Skip.’

“Your spirit will patrol the halls.”

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.