Bea N. Orr, 1930-2013

By Borst, Mary E. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, August 2013 | Go to article overview

Bea N. Orr, 1930-2013


Borst, Mary E., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


A large bouquet of red roses stands before you, sprinkled throughout with baby's breath in a beautiful blue vase (blue was Bea's favorite color). This gorgeous bouquet is in honor of Bea N. Orr. It is not by accident that red roses were chosen to honor Bea. Red roses signify love and passion ... and Bea was love and passion.

Bea was born on August 26, 1930, in Huntington, West Virginia. She was one of eight children born to Robert Lee and Mary Elizabeth Staley Nelson. She grew up in Huntington and later attended Marshall University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education, Health and English. After graduating, Bea became a physical education and health teacher in Logan County, West Virginia. It was while teaching in Logan that she met and married Thomas Benson Orr, Sr. They had three children--Terri, Sherri, and Tom, Jr. While teaching and raising a family, Bea also continued her education and earned a Master of Arts in Administrative Education/Special Supervision. In 1967, Bea became the County Director/Supervisor of K-12 Physical Education, Health Education and Girls' Athletics. In 1976, she received a Lifetime Supervisory Certificate in K-12 Physical Education and Health. Bea described herself as a "professional educational practitioner"--a scholar who generates and implements educational activities ... and she did it with love and passion.

As a supervisor of physical education and health programs, Bea made sure that all of her staff members were qualified, certified professionals. She recruited her teachers from colleges and universities all over the country. Bea loved and was passionate about her staff and took care of them. She found them places to live, she fed them, she helped them solve their problems, and she taught them along the way. It was not uncommon at dinner time to have three or four teachers around the table with Bea and Tom. After dinner, Tom would head to the family room, and Bea and her staff would sit around the kitchen table for hours sharing dreams and plans.

Bea continued to recruit staff until she retired in July 2010, after working almost 60 years in the public school system. The new recruits recently referred to themselves as "Bea's kids." Little did they know that Bea has had a lot of "kids," and she made them all feel special. Yes, Bea Orr was passionate, especially about her profession, on all levels.

Bea's physical education and health programs were recognized throughout the country. She achieved her goal of providing 30 minutes of daily, quality physical education for every elementary student in Logan County. She challenged her staff continually to try new programs or invent them. Together, they developed running clubs, O.R.K. (Olympic Records for Kids) Days, Soccer Saturdays, dance programs, and volleyball tournaments. One of her greatest achievements was the establishment of the Miss Softball American Program. She was passionate about Title IX because she believed that little girls should have the same opportunities in sports as little boys. While attending an AAHPERD convention in 1972, Bea saw an exhibit for the Miss Softball America Program. This program, however, was an incorporated franchise and was only for Orange County, California. Bea argued with those in charge until she convinced them to let her start a pilot program in Logan. The next year, in 1973, the program started, and later that year the Logan teams flew to California to compete with the other California teams. Girls' softball continued to grow under Bea's leadership until they finally outgrew the Miss Softball America Program and became sanctioned by the Amateur Softball Association of America. Recently, Bea was so proud when she watched all three area softball teams play for the West Virginia State Championships.

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On the state level, Bea fought for physical education and health programs. Her extended family was the West Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (WVAHPERD) professionals.

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