Bev York of Tenino devotes her time to history appreciation, honoring veterans, life-skills education and bagpipes. With a commitment to daily volunteerism in the local community, these four organized efforts meld together into an unmatched community spirit and an optimistic approach.
Olympia Highlanders Bagpipe and Drum Corps
After playing the bagpipes for nearly 20 years, Bev wished to learn long before when still a child but didn’t have access. “I always loved the sound of them,” she recalls. Renowned bagpipe teacher Stan Kildow eventually taught her, but happenstance led her to it along a roundabout way.
She met Kildow, a landscaper, through her father’s construction business. At 19, knowing he played in a bagpipe group, she asked him to teach her to play. However, he said he wasn’t ready to teach, as he had only been playing for a few years himself. Looking back, Bev understands now. “You’re just learning your way around that octopus by that time,” she says.
Through the years, Bev remained fascinated with the bagpipes. Then, in 2002, her mother saw a newspaper article about Kildow giving lessons and asked Bev if she still wanted to learn. Yes, she did. Nineteen years later, the instrument is a mainstay in Bev’s life. She is a member of the Olympia Highlanders Bagpipe and Drum Corps and cuts a striking figure in her highland dress while playing her bagpipes.
Bev is active in the performance group, both as a musician and as the business manager. Members range from several students still learning to one professional piper who is a wonderful gift to all. With 14 bagpipers and six drummers (one being Pete, Bev’s husband), the group performs yearly at various parades and community festivals, from Olympia’s Lakefair Parade to Seattle Scottish Highland Games. Not all of the members perform at each event, but they are required to participate in at least five a year.
Daughters of the American Revolution
In 2019, Bev joined the Sacajawea Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). This non-profit service group, which began in 1890, functions to promote patriotism, preserve American history, and secure America’s future through children’s education. Bev is very active in the group, currently serving as the chair of the American Heritage Committee, which works to preserve the heritage of art and sculpture, crafts, fiber arts, literature, drama, and music. She is also the co-chair of the Community Classroom Committee, which supports area teachers with colonial-life programs. The latter effort actively teaches skill sets in six 10-minute sessions, including children tracing their family tree, making shoes, soap and candle making, quilting and more.
“We want to teach a variety of skill sets,” Bev explains. “We offer to go into any classroom to teach the program.” Area teachers who are interested in the program can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bev enjoys the many activities the DAR takes on to honor our veterans, remember our history, and teach. “I have a passion for teaching history,” she says. “I want people to be resilient, and I want them to enjoy things like growing a garden and making things with their own hands. When people learn to grow their food and preserve it, it inspires confidence.” The best part for Bev is helping people get there.
Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War
Bev’s involvement in the DAR led her to join the Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (DUVCW). This group, also a non-profit organization, was formed in 1885 to support veterans, veteran medical centers, historic sites, cemeteries and other monuments. The organization works to preserve and repair veterans’ memorial markers.
I want to be a part of honoring veterans,” Bev says. “It’s a quiet support of them.”
Becoming “Bev” of the Historic Borst Home
Through her community activities, Bev became acquainted with Jean Bluhm, the living history program coordinator for the Historic Borst Home in Centralia. The 1860 home, now owned by the City of Centralia, is open to the public on specific dates through the summer months. Bev also became acquainted with retired teacher Sharon Winningham, who arranged special and school tours, and Sara Light-Waller, who organized the volunteers. However, with the onset of the COVID pandemic, Sharon and Sara stepped away from the program. Jean also retired from her official position but joins the current activities as her time permits.
Although Bev didn’t set out to do so, she now carries all those duties for the Historic Borst Home. “I don’t know what my title is,” she says. “My title is ‘Bev,’ just Bev.”
“It’s really a wonderful piece of history that can tell about the resiliency of the people,” she says. Bev enjoys sharing the complete story of the people who lived in the Borst House beyond their struggles.
“Yes, they struggled, but they also laughed, had fun and lived,” she says. “People lived in that house from 1860 until 1985. So, there was a lot of living done in that house.”
In addition to the historic home, there is also a replica of a one-room schoolhouse modeled after several schoolhouses from the 1920-1940 era and a pioneer church, which is modeled after an 1871 church.
The regular Borst program season runs from April through September. This year, though, there is a bonus event, “Christmas at Borst,” on Saturday, December 9, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Visitors will take in holiday skits and carolers, as well as activities and era-appropriate treat bags for kids.
Whatever the occasion, the special Christmas event, or the regular schedule, Bev recruits volunteers from her circle of friends and the local area. “I am delighted with the DAR sisters coming down and keeping this going,” she says.
Bev describes volunteerism as “ordinary people stepping up to do extraordinary things.” She is always looking for those ordinary people to take part. Anyone interested in being involved in the Borst Home activities can email her at email@example.com.