Friends, family, and colleagues are paying tribute to longtime Nelson optometrist and prominent citizen Dr. Eric Beauchamp, who has died at 63.
Beauchamp had a Baker Street practice for many years and was co-owner of the New Grand Hotel, formerly the Lord Nelson.
“Eric was one of the most charitable people I’ve ever known,” says friend and business partner Danny Rickaby. “I don’t know of anyone with as many friends. You can walk around town and everybody knew him from 80-year-olds to 12-year-olds.”
Rickaby says Beauchamp was always outgoing, and with wife Emily, a gracious host.
“He was just a wonderful person to be around. It didn’t matter who you were. You were treated like gold. He was one of those fellows that planet Earth needs a whole bunch more of.”
Always community-minded, Beauchamp was an early supporter of the Ernie Gare Scholarship Program, which provides bursaries to young athletes.
Gare’s son, retired NHL star Danny Gare, thanked Beauchamp for “helping make the program a difference maker in its growing years … Eric was a special friend and a special person. His unique way of kindness and generosity was truly memorable. Eric’s ability to give selflessly to this cause and to others in this great community will serve as his legacy.”
Born and raised in Nelson, Beauchamp was one of several doctors in his family, including his father Art and brothers Rick and Chris.
He graduated from Pacific University in Oregon in 1976 and ran his own optometry practice in Nelson, which he sold to Dr. Jonathan Proctor in June 2006. He continued to work part-time until January 2009, when he retired and was able to spend more time relaxing in Arizona.
“I found Eric to be extremely professional, likeable, and well-respected by his peers and patients,” Proctor says. “Many patients only reluctantly saw me after Eric retired because they had seen him so long and in his capable hands they did well.”
While Proctor knew he had big shoes to fill, he says perhaps the biggest demonstration of how highly regarded Beauchamp was came after he fell ill.
“A day didn’t go by where I didn’t have multiple people asking how he was doing. They were very genuinely concerned. He cared for people over the course of his career and they really appreciated that.”
Beauchamp also encouraged Dr. Tim Allen, his childhood neighbour, to enter the profession.
Both grew up on 9th Street, and although Beauchamp was a few years younger, he was already practicing by the time Allen considered optometry.
“He was instrumental in me going back to school,” Allen says. “He counselled me and recommended it as a great profession so I went ahead.”
Allen returned in 1981 to establish his own practice here, but says there was never any rivalry between them. “We were very close friends and at times considered amalgamating our practices but it just ended up we felt we were better off on our own. There was no competition.”
Each would refer patients to the other when on holiday.
Beauchamp’s wife Emily says her husband was honest, hard working, and a devoted father. “It was so nice all the time to be married to someone that everyone loved,” she says, adding he had a knack for surprising her. She jokes that she worries “about all the flower shops in Nelson and Fort Mohave now that he is not buying bad boy roses!”
Beauchamp’s son Gray says his father taught him that “fun, laughter, and professional success can all tip the scale equally. And to that end, I’ll miss his guidance, for I have not met anyone who saw things clearer and offered better advice.”
His other son Tye called him “my friend, my role model, and my fearless golf partner.”
Beauchamp passed away May 8 in Kelowna after a short battle with cancer.
In addition to his wife, sons, and brothers, he is survived by grandson Adden, sister Terry Greenen, and many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation (klhf.org/page203.htm) or Nelson Friends of the Family, a group Emily helped found in 1998 (nelsonfriendsofthefamily.com/donate.php).