Calera WW2 veteran receives Quilt of Valor

Published 12:57 pm Friday, January 20, 2017

By BRIANA HARRIS / Staff Writer

CALERA – Retired Marine Corporal James Olin Beane beamed with pride and appreciation as Jacquelyn McKinstry, the Alabama coordinator for the Quilts of Valor Foundation, draped him with a quilt that was handmade by another veteran named Tim.

“I got a quilt. I’ll stay warm now,” Beane said. “Oh Lord, I sure do appreciate this.”

McKinstry presented the quilt to Beane in the company of his family and friends on Monday, Jan. 9, at family member’s home in Calera. Quilts of Valor is a volunteer-based foundation that was established in 2003 with the goal of comforting veterans by providing them with a handmade quilt.

As of Jan. 9, McKinstry said 151,073 quilts had been given. She said 20 hours is a conservative estimate of how many hours it takes to complete one quilt.

“Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military and it’s very important that we remember to serve our veterans just as they have served us,” McKinstry said.

Beane’s oldest daughter Janice Beane Rachels said receiving the quilt and recognition for Quilts of Valor was very emotional for her whole family.

“My daddy has been a great man in my life,” she said. “He’s always taken care of his family. Right now I’m 70 years old and whenever I get ready to make a big decision in my life I still have to talk to him about it.”

Family friend Donna Smitherman is the person who contacted Quilts of Valor on Beane’s behalf. She said he has been like a second father to her since her own father died many years ago.

Beane grew up as the son of a farmer and spent his adolescence working the fields. He joined the Marines in 1942 at 17 years old and was sent to Camp Lejeune where he completed basic training

Because he wasn’t old enough to enlist in the military himself, his parents had to sign for him to join. He completed more training in San Diego before being sent to Japan to fight in World War II.

The 91-year-old said he was a part of the weapons company and began to recall some of his experiences in Japan, like fighting in hand-to-hand combat. To this day he still has Japanese flags that he took when the Japanese surrendered.

After the war, he spent some time in the South Pacific before going back home and getting married in May of 1946. He and his wife had two daughters, Rachels and Donna Beane Bailey.

He went from being an active duty Marine to being in the Marine Reserves. While in the reserves, he was called back up to serve in the Korean Conflict.

“I was so young I didn’t understand what it was all about,” Rachels said. “I used to cry and ask my mama to go get my daddy.”

When Beane came home for good he worked at Blue Circle Cement for 36 years before retiring.

Beane said he’s come so close to death many times – during military and when it comes to dealing with health issues. Rachels said he almost died once from complications with diabetes, and he recently had a stroke and is currently participating in physical therapy to help in his recovery.

“He sometimes says, ‘I don’t know why God has left me here for so long,’” Rachels said. “And I say, ‘It’s because he knows how much we need you.’ There aren’t any words to explain how important he’s been in our lives. We just love him so much and we’re so proud of him.”

Beane has three grandkids – Janatha Thompson-Womack, Jason Rachels and Misty Bailey Edwards; and nine great grandkids – Zach Thompson, Nick Thompson, Anna Thompson, Andrew Thompson, Tyler Thompson, Emily Beth Thompson, Ashton Rachels, Jaxon Rachels and Jack Edwards.