Emilee Ramsey Beckham, formerly of Big Spring, died Oct. 17, 2012, at age 95 in Claude, Texas.
She was born March 8, 1917, on a ranch near Westbrook, Texas to I.W. and Sarah Ann Ramsey. Her family owned and operated the I.W. Ramsey Cash Grocery in Westbrook. After starting elementary school one year early and skipping one grade, Mrs. Beckham graduated from Westbrook High School at age 16 and moved to Abilene to join her older sister, Burnice Ramsey, as a student at McMurry College.
Upon graduation from McMurry with a Bachelor of Science degree in music, Mrs. Beckham worked on a Master’s degree at Hardin Simmons, then became the public school music teacher at Coahoma, Texas in 1938.
While teaching in Coahoma, she met Fred Beckham who was employed at the D.S. Phillips Grocery. After several months of courtship, the couple was married on Oct. 21, 1939, in Big Spring.
Emilee joined the Coahoma chapter of the Order of Eastern Star (OES) and Fred joined the Coahoma Masonic Lodge in 1940, affiliations they both maintained until their death.
The couple moved to Big Spring in 1942, when Fred took a job at the Cosden Refinery and Emilee became the public school music teacher at East Ward Elementary. She also began teaching private piano lessons in the couple’s home on Sycamore Street.
The Beckham’s only son, James, was born in 1947, and Mrs. Beckham moved to teaching private piano lessons exclusively so she could be at home with their son. Over the next five decades, Emilee taught piano to hundreds of students.
During her teaching career, she was active in the Big Spring Piano Teacher’s Forum, the Music Study Club and was president of each organization. Emilee's many students participated each year in the Piano Teacher’s Guild Auditions. Becoming a judge for the American College of Musicians in 1976, Emilee adjudicated piano students in competitions throughout Texas and New Mexico for a period of more than 20 years.
Emilee was instrumental in shaping the musical careers of many people, including her son and her granddaughters. Emilee shared her infectious enthusiasm for life, her love of music and her commitment to her church with her family and her students. She used her musical talents, playing piano for church events, funerals, Eastern Star functions, Sunday school assemblies and singing in the Sanctuary Choir at First Methodist. For many years she also accompanied Big Spring High School band students in UIL Solo and Ensemble Contests.
Emilee was a very active member of the Big Spring First United Methodist Church Questers Class and was a matron of the Coahoma Chapter of the OES. She mentored many of the piano teachers in Big Spring and was active in a wide range of musical events in Big Spring for five decades. She was listed in the International Who’s Who in Music and Notable Americans in 1976, elected to the Who's Who of American Women in 1977 and she received numerous awards from the National Piano Playing Auditions.
Upon her retirement, Mrs. Beckham moved to Amarillo to be near her son and his family. She moved to the Palo Duro Nursing Home in Claude in 2004.
Mrs. Beckham is survived by her son, James Beckham and his wife Pamela of Amarillo and by their daughters, Jamie Blanks of Clayton, N.M. and Sarah Beckham of Amarillo; and one nephew, Ralph Hope of Gaithersburg, Md.
Mrs. Beckham was preceded in death by her husband, Fred Beckham, in 1973; by a sister, Burnice Hope; and by a brother, Ralph Ramsey.
Services will be held at 2 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Mount Olive Memorial Park Cemetery in Big Spring. Arrangements are by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd., Amarillo.
The family requests memorials be made to the Music Ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Big Spring, 400 Scurry Street, Big Spring, Texas 79720.