By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
In his senior year at Kern Valley High School, Jack Beaton was voted “Most Friendly” by his classmates.
That title doesn’t surprise anyone who knew him, as Beaton was known as a good friend, son, brother, husband and father.
Jack Reginald Beaton, Jr., was born on December 10, 1962, the first of two children for Jack Sr. and Barbara Beaton. He moved to the Kern Valley with his parents when he was a teenager. And like many teenagers, he made friends quickly. But that attribute seemed to follow him long after his graduation from Kern Valley High School in 1982.
“I’m not surprised that he was voted most friendly. Jack was a very nice young man,” said Sabine Klase Mixon, one of Beaton’s classmates at KVHS. “He was very popular and he was one of those kind of guys who spoke to everyone. He included everyone, not just the ones on the popular list. He would help out the little guy,” Mixon said.
Mixon was a cheerleader when Beaton was playing football for Kern Valley High School. Now the volleyball coach, P.E. teacher and cheerleader advisor at KVHS, she said she remembers Beaton as one who everyone liked.
Beaton enjoyed sports and played football for KVHS during his junior year. Beaton played for the defense, said Jimmy Thompson, now retired, but served as coach at KVHS when Beaton attended. That year was a difficult season for the team, ending with a 3-7 record. But following the season, the team gathered together to decide who deserved special awards and recognition. Beaton was named “Most Inspirational” by his teammates.
“Jack played defense, and he was really good on special teams,” Coach Thompson said. “He was good on ball coverage and a very good tackler. He was an aggressive tackler.” Thompson added that he remembers Beaton as being a likeable kid and got along well with his team members.
Mike Warnock lived next door to the Beatons in Wofford Heights during their high school years and said Jack was a lot of fun to be around. “He was a good guy and a really nice person,” Warnock said adding that his memories of Beaton are of the snow skiing trips that he, Jack and Jack’s brother Tom would take.
During his years in the Kern Valley, Beaton worked with his father, Jack Sr. in their family towing business, Kernville Garage, for a short period of time. Following graduation from Kern Valley High, he moved to Bakersfield, where he met his wife, Laurie Cook. The couple married on Oct. 1, 1994, and moved to Irvine for a short time before returning to Bakersfield. He worked as a roofer for Diamond Ridge Roofing in Bakersfield.
Beaton is described by his friends in Bakersfield as a hands-on guy who made friends easily. And those who knew him best said that his passion was his family – his wife Laurie, 20-year-old son Jake and 18-year-old daughter Delaney.
Jack is preceded in death by his father, Jack Beaton, Sr., and survived by his wife and children, mother Barbara Beaton and brother, Tom Beaton, both of Wofford Heights, and his mother-in-law and father-in-law Lauraine and Jerry Cook.
His mother, Barbara, says she spoke to Jack and Laurie on Sunday, the day of their anniversary, and is glad she did. “I was going to just text Jack and wish them a happy anniversary. But something told me to call instead. I’m so glad I did because it was the last time I talked to him.”
Beaton said that the couple posted their photo on Facebook showing them celebrating their 23rd anniversary at the country music festival in Las Vegas. Both were smiling as they were surrounded by their friends.
Within hours of that photograph, the mass shooting started and Jack was fatally shot when he draped his body over Laurie, protecting her from the gunfire.
The abrupt death of her son is hard for Barbara Beaton to grasp and talking about him is difficult.
“I still can’t get my mind around it,” she said “How this one person can ruin so many lives. It’s all so senseless, I just don’t understand.”
Beaton said she is proud of her son for his act of heroism in protecting his wife but struggles at the horrific way he died.
“If it would have been illness or even a car accident that took him, I think it would have been easier to understand,” his mother said. “But this was murder.”
Both Jack Sr. and Jack Jr. loved to barbecue, and Barbara said they could never pass up an opportunity to grill something. One thought that brings Barbara some comfort is that both her husband and son are in heaven. “He is with his dad now in heaven, and I’m sure they are barbecuing,” she said.
On Sunday, Oct. 8, Salty’s BBQ and Catering in Bakersfield held a fundraiser that reportedly generated more than $10,000. Jake Beaton works at the popular barbecue restaurant.
It is that outpouring of support from both the Bakersfield and Kern River Valley communities that have helped the Beaton family through this difficult time.
During a Memorial Mass and Celebration of Life service held in Bakersfield on Oct. 7, more than 800 people filled the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Bakersfield with emotional tributes about the man they described as a fun-loving friend who was generous and kind hearted – attributes that have left lasting and fond memories in both of Beaton’s home towns.