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Tributes paid to ‘beating heart’ of St John’s

“Steve was loved and admired by his team and others around him. The College owe him a great deal of gratitude for all his time, dedication and loyalty”

Moving tributes have been paid to a long-standing member of College staff who has died from cancer at the age of 63.

Steve Beeby led the Maintenance department for 15 years as Superintendent of Buildings after he joined the College more than 35 years ago. He met Yazz, his wife of 24 years, at St John’s when she was working as a bedmaker. Last year he retired early and he died peacefully at his home in Witchford on 17 May 2020 with his family by his side. He leaves behind Yazz and his four children and four grandchildren.

Helen Murley, Domestic Bursar, said: “For many years, Steve was the beating heart of the College buildings. He knew them all intimately, understood their quirks and charm and maintained them lovingly over the years. However, he did much more than just maintain the physical estate; by using his tremendous personal expertise, he skilfully oversaw and led significant development, taking into account major changes in conservation thinking, new technology and the advancing understanding of climate change. 

“Equally, he built a loyal and talented team who can turn their hands to anything from repairing 16th century woodwork to coaxing further years of operation out of Victorian drains. I regard myself as very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Steve and benefited enormously from his kindness, patience and understanding in my early days as Domestic Bursar.  He will be sorely missed by many people.”

Steve Beeby family photo
Steve Beeby was much loved and admired by the St John's College community.

Many members of the St John’s community have also paid tribute to Steve. A friend to many, Steve loved the College and enjoyed being a driving force in its overall upkeep. He was dedicated to ensuring Fellows, students and staff had heating, water, electric, gas and comfortable accommodation.

He managed a huge range of important projects for St John’s including the renovations of the Master’s Lodge in 2008, and the transformational refurbishment of The Old Divinity School.

Tim Waters, Head of College Buildings, said: “Many Colleges were surprised and a little envious of what St John's could take on, and this was in no small part to the College backing Steve's ideas and vision.”

He said that one of the last things Steve asked him was to look after the College for him and added: “Steve was loved and admired by his team and others around him. The College owe him a great deal of gratitude and respect for all his time, dedication and loyalty he showed to the College over the years. His family should be very proud of all that he achieved. He will be very much missed.”

Steve had a warm relationship with everyone but was particularly fond of former Domestic Bursar Commodore John Harris, and the late Master, Sir Christopher Dobson. “Meetings with both great men would be sure to put a smile on his face!” said Vicky Jeffries, Maintenance Payments and Utilities Co-ordinator, who worked with Steve for 17 years. She loved his work ethic, enthusiasm and kindness and remembers him as a great friend as well as a supportive manager who would listen and dispense good advice over a cup of tea.

She said: “Steve has been a guiding light in my life and nurtured in me a love for the College. Many of our staff have worked with Steve for many more years than I have and we would all work hard to make him proud. We all share the same respect and love for him and we will miss him more than he could know.”

Other tributes from the College community recall Steve’s generosity and natural affinity with people; a man of ‘very considerable ability’ and tact who could solve any problem with ‘sheer guts and determination’.

Milestones during Steve’s career include meeting The Queen at the College Quincentenary in 2011. Another was the day he met Yazz. He was never happier than when talking about his wife and family and was very proud of his children Emma, Adam, Jack and Donna, and grandchildren Nancy, Lydia, Riley and Billy.

Steve meeting the Queen
Steve (far right) meeting The Queen at St John's in 2011.

Outside work Steve was also a fan of Formula One and enjoyed a surprise trip to Monaco to watch the racing for his 50th birthday with Yazz. He was a keen fisherman too, his last catch being an impressive 37.5lb carp, which delighted him.

Yazz said: “He was a plumber but he could fix anything, and he could even build computers. St John’s meant everything to him, he lived for the College, that was his life. It was so sad when he had to retire, he didn’t want to but the illness took over and he just couldn’t work anymore.”

Steve’s funeral will take place at Fenland Crematorium, March, on Monday, 1 June and will be led by The Rev’d Canon Mark Oakley, The Dean of Chapel at St John’s. Steve will also be remembered at Evensong in the College Chapel on Monday and the service can be viewed live on the St John’s Voices Facebook page or via this Facebook link that can be viewed by anyone, not just people with a Facebook account.

Charitable donations in Steve's memory may be made to Arthur Rank Hospice.

Published: 29/05/2020

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