From the sidelines
Ben Beagle was reporter in the early days of the Radford News Journal. He had just left the US Army and returned home to the community he had grown up in.
Like many other youngsters, he grew up tossing the pigskin around and even played several years at Radford High School. He was a Bobcat at heart.
He passed away earlier this year, and before Radford’s game with Ft. Chiswell Friday night, members of Beagle’s family were honored as his former Bobcat football jersey #36 was retired.
I never met Beagle, but I felt a connection with him. We both started our writing careers at the Radford News Journal.
When I arrived, he had moved to the Roanoke Times where his humorous columns were making people smile. People needed something to start the day off right, and he helped with that.
I honestly believe writers like Beagle were and are still needed in our society are not considered “politically correct” anymore. “Columns” about life are simply not the norm.
Beagle’s writings were the mirror images of others like Charlie Fretwell (another Radford native), who helped us to find humor in day-to-day activity. His columns took a look at each person’s memories of Radford, and putting that special twist on them.
For over 50 years, Beagle provided us his own slice of life. He left the Radford News Journal in 1954 and joined the Roanoke Times. He semi-retired in 1992, but wrote columns until 2010.
He was born in Waynesboro but moved to Radford as a youngster. Beagle would chuckle about his time on the gridiron, even going as far to call it less than stellar. But he used his jersey number 36 as column fodder, referring to it many times over the years.
Beagle also nicknamed friends, family members and former neighbors who would appear in his weekly rendition of “Ben’s neighbors.” He nicknamed his wife, Johnnie as the, “greatest station wagon driver of them all.”
His storytelling seemed to come very easy for him. His style has not been duplicated and probably never will.
Beagle even had a sandwich named after him at BT’s Restaurant on Tyler Avenue in Radford. “That type of honor,” he once said, “means you finally made it big.” Thus, he turned it into a column titled “Now you can have my sandwich and eat it too.”
He wrote: “So, I am not very good at playing the lottery, and I have no idea of how to fix the kitchen cabinet that appears to be falling down. These faults pale to insignificance, as the politicians used to say, when compared to the great honor I have been given in Radford,” in announcing his new sandwich.
He probably was saying the same thing as he looked down on Friday’s ceremony.
From all accounts, Beagle was a humble man and would have probably just laughed at the announcement. But of course, it would give him a reason to write another column.
Friday night his daughters, Lucy Casey and Ann Beheler, along with son and namesake, Ben Beagle, accepted a collage of photos along with a framed #36 jersey in his honor.
Email sports tips and story ideas to NRVsports@ourvalley.org.