For Grass Valley “super senior,” helping children is a way of life | TheUnion.com

For Grass Valley “super senior,” helping children is a way of life

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

"It's all about kids," said Gordon Beatie, reflecting on four decades of volunteer work. "Everything I do is to help kids. Some of my best friends are teenagers."

The 73-year-old Grass Valley "super senior" has volunteered for dozens of nonprofit organizations, each with a focus on young people.

His first foray into the volunteer world was with the Girl Scouts in the early 1980s, when he was asked to organize a Scouting fundraiser.

"I didn't know if I could do it," Beatie said. "But I soon found out I wasn't raising money. I was giving other people an opportunity to help others out."

“If I haven’t helped a child today, I haven’t done my job. Every day, in some way, I need to help our youth. I have no need for recognition. That gets in the way of doing more.”­

— Gordon Beatie

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In 1989, he started his nearly 30-year tenure on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Sacramento — a position he still holds today.

For nearly 50 years, he's been a bidder and a buyer at the Nevada County Fair Livestock Auction. Other volunteer efforts include Big Brothers Big Sisters and Habitat for Humanity.

He's a decade-plus member of the 49er Breakfast Rotary Club of Nevada City. Nearly every year, his family hosts an exchange student through the Rotary Youth Exchange. Beatie is also the advisor to Nevada Union's Rotary Interact leadership club, and he mentors hundreds of young people through two other Rotary programs.

"It all comes down to the kids," said Beatie. "If we're going to get out of where we're headed in this world, we need caring, young adults who aren't there yet but will be."

Every month, Beatie helps make 1,000 pasties for the Grass Valley United Methodist Church. Sales of the pasties fund mission outreach.

"I was raised in the church and sang in the choir," recalled Beatie. "I sang soprano because my voice was higher than my sister's at the time."

Another of Beatie's favorite contributions was his work as board member and treasurer of the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Prevention Council.

"It just felt good for the right reasons," said Beatie, who this year chose not to seek re-election to the board but remains an associate member. "It was about giving people tools to do their jobs better and safer. It has a huge ripple throughout the community and young people are affected. The group gives scholarship to get kids into law enforcement and fire protection. It's a great group of people."

Beatie's not resting on his laurels. He serves as a member of the Nevada County Airport Commission and the Penn Valley Area Municipal Advisory Council, a group focused on the economic growth of the area and how to improve it.

Beatie's local roots run deep. He graduated from Nevada Union High School in 1961, the last graduating class to attend what old-timers refer to as "the old high school" (now Silver Springs on the Park Avenue campus).

"I still call the current NU 'The new campus,'" he said.

After graduation, Beatie attended University of the Pacific in Stockton and majored in business. Once a whiz with numbers, he admits that prowess has passed.

"Now I can't even remember phone numbers," said Beatie, "and I don't have a pin number because I can't ever remember it."

After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Beatie transferred to CSU Sacramento. His education was cut short when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam.

"I was a clerk and typed on a typewriter," he said in his typical, matter-of-fact way. "I got shot at when I was on guard duty, and I shot back. I worked in a huge bunker with offices staffed by 200 officers and 200 enlisted. I learned a lot, what my capabilities were and weren't. I never thought about being killed and I tried to find positive things about everything."

After returning stateside, Beatie made his mark in the business world selling Caterpillar tractors. His grandfather started the business, then called Marysville Tractor, in Marysville in 1931. Around 1962, the company's headquarters moved to Sacramento and its territory expanded to include 10 counties, which led to its new name of Tenco Tractor.

Beatie's father took the helm in 1953, and Beatie followed in his father's footsteps in 1977.

"I had worked there during summers all through high school and college, and took on more and more responsibility until I was running the lift truck division," said Beatie. "Then one day my dad walked into my office, handed me the keys, and said 'bye.'"

Beatie was in no way abandoned. His father remained ready to help or offer advice. The company flourished.

"Caterpillars cost money — a lot of it — but they're a way to make money," said Beatie. "It is a production tool for mining, logging, construction and farming. Our customers make good money, and that's why they buy Caterpillar."

The family business lost money only three years during all those decades: one year during the Great Depression, and two years in the 1980s during the Great Recession. In every other year, the company grossed millions of dollars that mostly stayed in the company for investing in future growth.

"The whole experience of what I've been able to do in my life was created by the benefit of being a Caterpillar dealer," he said.

Beatie retired at age 68 in 2012. He said he's been blessed with a loving family, which includes his wife of 15 years, Lindy, and her daughter, whom Beatie adores. He also cherishes his son and daughter from his first marriage, and his grandson Sam.

"Lindy saved my life," said Beatie, "from giving me hope after divorce to putting me back to where I needed to be."

The Beatie family owns Donner Mine Camp, a 17-acre facility bordering the Bear River near Nevada City. The camp is rented to nonprofit and educational organizations that want an outdoor retreat in a High Sierra setting.

"My son and daughter run it," Beatie said. "It is 99 percent youth-oriented, so we all invest time and money in that."

Beatie continues to set the bar high when it comes to serving others, especially youths.

"If I haven't helped a child today, I haven't done my job," Beatie said. "Every day, in some way, I need to help our youth. I have no need for recognition. That gets in the way of doing more."

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a "Super Senior" to be profiled in The Union, contact her LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.