Editor’s note: In each Senior Living section, a new person will be featured in the Leaving a Legacy series.

Eva Beard is gracious, ever ready with a beautiful smile and a friendly greeting. While petite in stature, Eva has a powerful voice for expressing what she has learned as a social worker, advocate, and volunteer, passionately sharing words of wisdom and insights to help others. When listening to her "story," independence is evident. She took advantage of opportunities, embracing diversity in employment (e.g., clerk, teacher) and activities (e.g., music/singing).

Eva is 94 years old, was born in Ashland, and resides at Lutheran Village. She had four children, one of whom is deceased; five grandchildren, one of whom is deceased; 10 great-grandchildren; one great-great-granddaughter.

Eva was a mentor and volunteer throughout her life, charted her life in a unique way, became college-educated with assistance financially and from family members who cared for her children. Her social work profession ("loved every minute!") transformed her life. She made a difference for families/children with whom she worked.

While she didn’t receive a high school diploma, Eva earned her B.S. from Ashland College in 1965, and her MSSA in 1967 from Western Reserve University. During her career, she was a program coordinator, outreach worker, family therapist, intake worker, emergency mental health worker. Eva was a licensed social worker, working in a variety of clinical and social service settings. She has expertise in fundraising, program planning/evaluation, counseling, teaching, administration, community relations. She worked with clients of all ages.

She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NASW Ohio Region Eight in 2006, the MHRB Martha Phillips Jorden Beacon Award in 2015 and received special recognition from the Ohio Senate, and was inducted into the Mandel School CWRU Hall of Achievement in 2016.

Eva has served as a board member for the MHRB, Ashland Parenting Plus (APP) and AU Social Work Department Board. Eva is the oldest actively-serving Board member of an Ohio county MH board. This article provides a snapshot of her experiences; a comprehensive listing is on the MHRB website (www.ashlandmhrb.org).

Eva never imagined becoming a social worker, having planned to be a history teacher. During an atypical dark period in her life, she prayed to God, asking Him to tell her what to do. She believed that what she was doing wasn’t working, turned her life over to Him. For her final semester at AC, she had to decide which course to take to meet final requirements, choosing one addressing the social work field. On the first day, her professor asked "How many of you are taking this class because you want to be a social worker?" Eva found her hand shooting up in response. She believes that the Lord answered, directed her into this line of work.

Her message to up-and-coming social workers: While education is important, what you learn in the field is critical. Have diversity in employment, go where clients live to see what they have to work with and help them make the most of their situations, and provide parenting skills’ training.

Steve Stone, MHRB, commented: "Eva has been a champion of children and families throughout her career. She is passionate about the need to provide the right supports and resources to families who have complex needs and will always say that it is easy to blame parents and families for the problems they experience, but that doesn’t help. We are better off if we help to build strong parents, children and families, as they are the bedrock of a strong community."

Nancy Udolph, AU social work professor, indicated "Eva was a mentor to many social workers, including me. She always saw the best in clients and she knew how important it was to families to find their strengths and build on them. Eva understands the value of human relationships and the need for communities to care for their own…We are all richer for having had Eva Beard as a social worker in our community."

Catherine Swope, APP, noted: "As an employee of APP, she would often go above and beyond the average case management and would feistily advocate for her clients to make sure their best interests were served. After she retired from APP, she became an APP board member and brought that same spunk and passion for families’ care to the board."

Mayor Matt Miller shared," I first met Eva Beard when we served together on the Catholic Charities Advisory Board and then later when we participated in various Ashland County Mental Health Board activities and programs. Eva is a good listener. Quiet, kind and humble, she always looks out for those who are struggling and cannot speak for themselves."

Director Tracy Plouck, ODMHAS, wrote: "Your (Eva’s) passion for those in recovery, and especially for children, is very inspiring, and you serve as a model community member for all Ohioans, regardless of age."

When expressing thoughts about living life well, Eva recommended concentrating on others and their needs, sharing what’s been helpful. Eva exemplifies how we can succeed in changing the direction of our lives when middle-aged, working long past typical retirement age. Eva Beard has shown us how to age successfully and gracefully, how to continue making a major difference at advanced age.

Diana Spore is a member of the Ashland County Older Adult Behavioral Health Coalition.