From her cozy apartment, Lillian Beard eyed an overflowing basket of cards for her Oct. 18 100th birthday. Many friends had visited, enjoying her spirited conversation and beauty. Sitting with her were Wayne and Becky Rogers, her “children in the Lord because she has no children of her own,” and the Rev. Arthur Craig of the Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church. “God uses different people of different talents. I see how God has used inexperienced people like me, even though my formal education is limited,” said Beard, an accomplished international Sign language interpreter, who likes to be called “Miss Lillian.” “As a tiny baby born in Ft. Worth, I was given by someone to Mack and Octavia Fitzgerald who were deaf and mute and had no children. My grandmother was disgusted and told my parents, ‘You are handicapped and cannot raise her.’ Mother told her to go enjoy her other grandchildren, saying, ‘I’m keeping Lillian and want to very much.’ I didn’t know my parents’ relatives well because they didn’t know Sign and paid little attention to us,” she said. “But I remember visiting my grandmother once and never went back. She couldn’t catch me when I was naughty.” Beard learned Sign as a first language to communicate with her parents. “My earliest remembrance of mother is signing for her while she shopped for Luxor face powder,” she said. Her world began to expand; however, when she started school and her mother wrote a note saying, “This is my little girl. Teach her how to speak. She can’t speak plainly because her father and I are deaf mutes.” Beard had a “hard time with words,” was embarrassed in front of classmates and quit to go to work. With this, she drew herself out of her quiet world and discovered she could sign and speak well in many places, especially in church. “Around the time I was 15 in 1924, Mr. Pasche, from the grocery store, took me to Houston First Baptist Church. I accepted the Lord as savior and mother saw me baptized,” she said. “At First Baptist, Dr. W.G. Bryan was hired to teach Sunday school and I signed for him. When I was 22, I rode the street car to work at Houston Lighting and Power Company and lived with the Bryans, a hearing family. His daughter was the first female accepted into Rice University,” said Beard “He made the most lasting impression on my life.” While signing in this church, she was interrupted one day by a gentleman, Louis A. Beard, Baylor graduate, who had seen her from afar, approached and watched her for some time. When he asked her out, she said, “That would be nice,” and within two years, in l934, they married. When they moved to Kingwood in the mid-1960s, Beard commuted to work at First Baptist, until she became a widow after 50 years of marriage. During her remarkable life’s journey, she mastered the matrix of interpreting complex communication and taught her skills to hundreds of deaf and hearing people. She saw the development of world-wide Southern Baptist deaf missionaries and pioneered the evolution of Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church in Houston, now in its 84th year. To her credit, she published the first Houston Registry of Interpreters of the Deaf. After 10 decades, Beard retains her rare ability to guide the deaf and hearing through their labyrinth of communications across culture, generations, lifestyle and language. She still signs with nimble fingers, is active in her church and adult living home, Eden Terrace in Kingwood, and says she’s not a worrier. “I’ve noticed her encourage others when they come to encourage her and I see how she has impacted the lives of so many people over the generations,” said Craig. “She sets an example for others and for me,” remarked Becky Rogers. “Her heart is filled with sympathy. She’s sterling example to be honored,” added Wayne Rogers. After hearing this, Beard says, “I don’t know what to say … I accept it and thank the Lord for it. I’ve had a busy weekend with three birthday parties and think I’ll rest this evening. I’m humbly grateful to the Lord for all my blessings. He gave me loving parents and a loving husband. I stand back in awe.” For more information, visit www.woodhavendeaf.org/Our_History.

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