Nancy Beeuwkes: A Dedicated Citizen with a Generous Vision
Civic-minded doesn't begin to describe Nancy Beeuwkes, but it is an excellent start. A retired psychiatric nurse who worked with veterans for many years, Nancy is passionate about our democracy. She takes the phrase "Democracy is not a spectator sport" to heart and is active at every level including participating in national political campaigns, serving on a variety of committees in the Town of Concord, and being a long-standing board member of the League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle.
Nancy's interests in history and the environment converged in 2018, inspiring her to make a gift that is truly breathtaking.
She and her husband Rein own the historic homestead in Concord known as October Farm. Original parts of the farmhouse date back to the mid-1700s when the property was given to John Barrett by his grandfather Humphrey Barrett as a wedding gift. It remained in the family for 154 years. Over time, parcels were sold off and by 1992, when Nancy and Rein purchased it, the homestead sat on just 8.2 acres—far less than the 300 it once claimed. The historic nature of the home itself, however, was relatively intact and the Beeuwkeses set about keeping it that way.
At about the quarter century mark of carefully caring for this historic home, Nancy and Rein began to consider a long-term plan for its preservation. With that in mind, they approached Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton about the possibility of donating their home and the land on which it is located, fronting on Monument Street. Why Mass Audubon? One reason is the integrity the organization has shown throughout its long history of managing property. The other is its connection to a prior owner of October Farm—William Brewster. At the end of the 19th century, Julia Robbins, the last in the line of the Barrett family, sold the house to Brewster who was Mass Audubon’s first President.
Brewster was a noted ornithologist at Harvard University and used the October Farm property (which stretched down to and ran along the Concord River) as a base not far from Cambridge where he could actively pursue his studies and host other noted ornithologists, such as Edward Howe Forbush.
As Nancy and Rein were finalizing plans to donate their property (with a retained life estate so they could continue to live there), a neighbor decided to sell her 130-acre abutting property. This land too was part of the 300 acres that was once William Brewster's October Farm. Just two years before, Nancy played a key role, working with the Concord Land Conservation Trust and the Town of Concord, in preserving 80 of these 300 acres. Now she saw an opportunity to almost triple the amount of protected acreage that once belonged to Brewster.
"It was the most beautiful piece of serendipity for us," Nancy explains. "We had always loved this place and wished we were rich enough to buy it. Last spring, we sold our company of 45 years. At the same time, Charlene decided to sell her property." When Nancy revealed her idea to buy Charlene's land and donate that along with their now 12-acre October Farm, Gary Clayton was stunned, thrilled, and completely overwhelmed by this generous instinct, calling it a "spectacular gesture of support and commitment to land conservation." Moving very quickly, this gift of 143 acres by Nancy was completed before the end of the year, as was the gift of an endowment by Rein to support the property’s management.
Joan Ferguson, Chair of the Concord Land Conservation Trust, commented on the donation, "I have seen Nancy's dedication to the Town of Concord first hand and am always impressed by her exceptional enthusiasm and generosity. Her gift to Mass Audubon is one example – a particularly spectacular one! – of the many ways she contributes to the vitality of our community."
Nancy and Rein will continue to care for and live at October Farm for the rest of their lives, secure in the knowledge that this historic home and the spectacular landscape that surrounds it will be carefully managed by Mass Audubon forever.