Those who knew him are mourning the loss of James "Sandy" Beach, a lifelong Sherman resident who became a fixture in several areas of the community and a friend to many.

Those who knew him are mourning the loss of James "Sandy" Beach, a lifelong Sherman resident who became a fixture in several areas of the community and a friend to many.


Mr. Beach died suddenly on Wednesday evening of what doctors believe may have been a blood clot, said his daughter Carrie Beach.


Those who knew Mr. Beach characterized him as a likable person who made friends everywhere he went. Indeed, everyone who granted an interview for this article would throw out the name of someone to interview next, saying, "Interview (this person), they were really close with Sandy."


Mr. Beach embedded himself in several areas of the community, including Austin College and the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.


"My dad was a people person," Carrie Beach said. "He had a huge passion for education. He loved nature, Austin College, and the community."


Mr. Beach was born on Jan. 30, 1947, in Sherman. His involvement with Austin College began at an early age, as his family owned a store near campus, said AC Professor George Diggs. As a child, Mr. Beach would often leave his family’s store and take walks around the campus — this was at a time when College Street still cut through the middle of the campus, Diggs said Beach once told him.


Mr. Beach later attended AC and graduated in 1968 with a degree in biology. After that, he earned a master’s degree in zoology science, returned to Sherman and remained an active, visible member of the community for many years.


Returning to AC, Mr. Beach worked as the biology lab manager. While he was not a professor, he sometimes taught science courses, Diggs said. He often would lead groups of AC students on tours of the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, a place where he was also a familiar face.


"He was always trying to do the best thing for the students," Diggs said.


Even after Mr. Beach retired as the biology lab manager in 2011, he still remained active in the AC biology department, Diggs said, lending a helping hand where needed.


According to many people who knew him, Mr. Beach’s love for nature was a huge tenet of his life. He was an ornithologist and frequently watched birds at the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.


"The most important thing to know about Sandy is that he loved birds. He would lead people on trails at the Hagerman to see birds," said AC Professor Wayne Meyer. "Whenever he was outdoors, it was the happiest day of his life."


Mr. Beach was a member of the Friends of Hagerman volunteer group and helped start BirdFest Texoma, which was celebrated for the tenth time this year.


"Birders are a strange flock. You have to be a birder to understand a birder," said Jack Chiles, a member of the Friends of Hagerman group and Mr. Beach’s friend for 25 years. "Sandy and I would always talk about birds — birds we had seen at the refuge, or birds that Sandy had seen at Wood Lake."


Chiles said he will miss his friend, and their conversations, dearly.


"You meet some people in life who influence you. Sandy was one of those people for me," Chiles said.


Carrie Beach said that the Beach family plans to hold a celebration of life for her father sometime in the coming weeks.