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Darts & laurels: Clarence Beaver was a visionary

Laurels to the memory of business owner and innovator Clarence Beaver of Salisbury, who embraced solar energy decades before it was cool.

Beaver, 85, who died last week in Denver, Colo., was the longtime president of Beaver Brothers Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar Energy. The company was started by his father and uncle. Beaver moved it toward specializing in energy-efficient environmental systems that now can be found all over Rowan County and beyond.

Beaver practiced what he preached. He incorporated one of the first working solar domestic hot water systems into his own home, and had the house placed at an angle on its lot to get maximum exposure to the sun.

Commenting several years ago on the rise and fall of solar energy’s popularity in the 1970s, Beaver predicted it would return. “Solar’s going to pay,” Beaver told a Post reporter. “And this time it will be simple because now we know what makes it work.”

Beaver was right, as the solar farms and rooftop solar collectors around the county —and country — attest. He was a visionary. It’s no wonder he received a Legacy Award as a founding member of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

John Wear, director of the Center for the Environment at Catawba College, said at first he was surprised to run into Beaver in Raleigh at meetings related to the environment. He soon realized how committed Beaver was to sustainability, and through the years Beaver got involved with the center and spoke at some of its events.

“He was very down-to-earth and straightforward, and had a deep interest in this area and its importance,” Wear said.

A statement on the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association’s website reflects Beaver’s enthusiasm, and could itself be considered a tribute to the man:

“We envision a future where North Carolina’s clean energy economy leads the nation and serves as a model for other states. Together with our membership, NCSEA is blazing the path toward this vision, where the possibilities and benefits for our state and local economies are endless.”

 

Laurels also to another example of foresight, this time regarding school lunches.

Elizabeth Withers Smith had a deja vu moment when she learned all children in 12 Rowan-Salisbury schools and every Kannapolis city school will receive free breakfast and lunch this school year. In 1977 while her late husband, Neal Smith,  was representing Rowan County in the N.C. House, he asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use the state as a national testing ground for free lunches for all school children, regardless of family income.

A teacher at North Rowan Primary School at the time, Neal Smith said he was not generally for giveaways, but the federal lunch program was not equitable. And he had seen the need. “Just as food is essential for life, the quality of that food often determines the quality of life,” Neal Smith said. “The teacher has a very difficult task when trying to keep a hungry child’s attention.”

The USDA did not act on Smith’s suggestion then, but schools clearly are moving in that direction now.

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