For her 95th birthday, Kathleen Bean enjoyed a reception that included family and many employees from the Christian Service Center, where she volunteered for 25 years.
It was a generational celebration for Kathleen Bean, who turned 95 years old on June 8 and had a reception in her honor the next day at Calvary Baptist Church. Her two sons, Jimmy and Bill Bean, were in attendance, as were many other family members, including her three granddaughters and several great- and great-great-grandchildren.
Other special guests included a number of employees and volunteers from the West Orange Christian Service Center, where Bean served for about 25 years.
Miss Kathleen, as she is affectionately called at the center, has cooked the noon meal three or four times a week at Daily Bread, one of the CSC’s programs. Longtime friend Odessa Reynolds has been by her side in the kitchen for much of that time.
“They arrived in the morning to start cooking the lunchtime meal,” said Rosemary Wilsen, family emergency services coordinator for the West Orange CSC. “She made the best mashed potatoes I have ever had. She loves to cook and was the first person to get me to like zucchini squash. Every meal that she helped prepare was a culinary delight.”
Bean said she has always loved cooking and preparing meals for up to 178 people was easy. The day’s meal depended on what donations had come in, but with large companies such as Target and Walt Disney World contributing food, “you had the choice of what you wanted to cook,” she said.
It was easy for Bean to form a bond with the people she serves.
“Your heart’s always warmed with them,” Bean said. “I love those people. It’s unfortunate that so many have to live that way. You get really close to them. You don’t see them that much, but you feel for them.”
Bean’s first encounter with the Christian Service Center was in the early 1990s. She and a friend had been to a garage sale in Oakland, and this friend wanted to stop by the center to show Anne Walding, the director of Daily Bread, what she had purchased.
“They were so nice,” Bean said. “Anne asked if I would come back and volunteer.”
So she did. For the next quarter of a century, she gave her time at its previous location at the Methodist church and its current site at 300 W. Franklin St., both in Ocoee.
“I loved it,” she said of volunteering with the CSC. “I just loved feeding the people and taking care of them.”
Even today, she visits regularly to check on the people.
“She is a person of faith, and she expresses this through her service,” Wilsen said. “(She) still has time for the Christian Service Center, greeting everyone with a smile.
“Miss Kathleen is a treasure,” Wilsen said.
Kathleen Joiner Bean lives in Ocoee but said she always will consider Winter Garden her home.
She was born in Georgia; her family moved to Winter Garden when she was 13, and she lived there until 1994, when her husband died.
Her memory is sharp at 95, and she recalls nearly a century of details and history.
Bean’s family lived on Main Street, just a few blocks south of downtown Winter Garden. She used to read to Mary V. Tanner’s sister, who was learning shorthand. The Joiner family lived across the street from Tanner and her husband, E.M. “Doc” Tanner, a longtime city clerk for whom Tanner Auditorium (now Tanner Hall) is named.
For a time, she rented space from John and Marjorie Rees, the parents of current Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.
Bean met her husband, William “Bud,” when he was the manager of the economy store near the railroad track in downtown Winter Garden. It was probably the first chain store in the area, she said. It was just up the street from her family home.
She and her husband eventually opened a grocery store near Story Road and Main Street, where Dr. Bob Foster’s dental office is located.
Rayden and Bean Grocery Store opened in 1944 or 1945 on West Colonial Drive in the building now occupied by Maryland Fried Chicken.
After raising their children, Kathleen Bean worked at Florida Telephone, on North Main Street, for 25 years, first as an operator and then in management for a few years before retirement.
Kathleen and Bud Bean were married for 52 years and had two sons, Bill and Jimmy. The Bean family includes Jimmy's wife, Julie; three granddaughters; eight great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren with two more on the way.