Beatrice Irene Oster Axford
1922 – 2014
Beatrice (Bea) Axford, known primarily as a talented violinist, was also a pianist who taught lessons on both instruments for over seventy years. A frequent soloist on the violin, she also played first violin in orchestras for over fifty years.
Bea was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, the only child of Lily Hewitt and Jacob James Oster. Her mother sang solos in church and played the piano, while her father occasionally sang. She started lessons at age seven on piano and violin, studying with Julius Brander on the latter. By age twelve, she was playing at a level that enabled her to join the noted Portland Youth Orchestra, famous as the first youth orchestra in the nation. She was well known in the Portland area as a violin soloist.
She continued with her music throughout her high school years, the last of which was spent at Portland Union Academy, now Portland Adventist Academy. Following graduation from PUA in 1940, Bea enrolled at Walla Walla College, now University, where she completed a B.A. in music, with violin as her performance area in 1944, studying under Victor Johnson. An honor roll student, she played in the ensembles at the college and in the first violin section of the Walla Walla Symphony under conductor Frank Beezhold all during her college years.
Bea married Robert Verlin Axford in July 1943, in spite of what had been a disastrous first meeting three years earlier. They had met in the spring of 1940 when both were riding in a bus to WWC for College Days along with other students from PUA and Columbia Academy. She had trouble with her window and he, riding in the seat ahead of hers, assisted her with it, closing it on her finger, a disconcerting accident since she was scheduled to play a violin solo at the college. She later talked about what she did to care for her finger so that she could play:
I soaked my smashed finger in very hot and cold water, which took out the soreness, so I was still able to play my solo without any pain. My mother was a nurse and had taught me how to soak swollen bruises.
Following graduation from WWC, she supported Bob in his medical studies at the College of Medical Evangelists, now Loma Linda University, by teaching.
After his internship in Seattle, Washington, they moved to the north-central area of the state, where he practiced medicine for two years, before heading up a hospital on an Indian reservation in Montana for two years. The Axfords then moved to Prosser, Washington, in 1953, where they resided for nearly twenty-five years. In 1977 they moved to Kennewick, Washington, where he worked until his retirement in 1985. He passed away a few weeks after their 65th wedding anniversary in 2009.
During her married life, Bea continued to study violin and earned another degree while teaching violin and piano lessons. She also played in orchestras when possible, playing first violin in the Richland Symphony, later renamed the Mid-Columbia Symphony, for forty years. She taught both violin and piano until a few months before her death at age 91.
Sources: Information provided by Beatrice Axford; 65th anniversary notice in the April 2009 North Pacific Union Gleaner; and an obituary for Robert Axford in the Yakima Herald-Republic, 21 October 2009, personal knowledge.