Ms. Bean, as she is known by all, is an island treasure. She recently celebrated her 92nd birthday. Her clear blue eyes and sparkling smile are her trademark. Her school, the Bean School of Dance, has offered dancing classes to local children and their families for more than 65 years.
The school is housed in a tabby building on North Third Street. When her husband, Lewis “Red” Bean, retired from the school district, he gifted his 65-year-old wife with her dream studio. She recalls that it was a family affair, with son, Mark, newly graduated from Florida State University, heading up the construction.
Prior to the opening of her studio, she taught in the basement of her North 15th Street brick home, where she raised her nine children and where she still lives. She also taught classes in the old Keystone Hotel, the Recreation Center, and St. Michael Catholic Church. The youngest of the nine is Aaron Bean, a State Senator and former mayor of Fernandina Beach. She stays busy according to Aaron, and he says sometimes he has to make an appointment to see her. She still remembers the names of the kids she taught 50 years ago, and the names of their kids she taught, and their grandkids, too.
She remains in her house surrounded by gardens, with a fish pond and huge back porch waiting for family gatherings. The Bean family’s first home was on the beach, and Ms. Bean smiles as she recalls that her children wore bathing suits under their church clothes so they could get to the beach as soon as possible after church.
Ms. Bean received a degree in Physical Education from Western Kentucky State College, where she met Red Bean, the love of her life. Red was an outstanding athlete, who played for Bear Bryant at one time. He was able to complete his education at Western Kentucky on an athletic scholarship. After his time in the service, he and Joan moved to Fernandina Beach in 1950, where he was offered a job teaching mechanical drawing, shop, and coaching at the island high school.
Red Bean was a legendary teacher and coach. In 2006, when Florida State College at Jacksonville and the Nassau County School District partnered to build a Technical Center for vocational training on the FSCJ Betty P. Cook Nassau Center campus. they named it the Lewis “Red” Bean Technical Center. The 90,000 square feet facility is home to state-of-the-art computer and technology labs and classrooms, and it is utilized for high school dual enrollment and career certification courses.
Ms. Bean is a fixture in the island’s traditional small town parades. One of her favorite costumes is that of the Statue of Liberty. She waves from a float while her students show off their skills as they move down the street.
Ms. Bean is passionate about Amelia Island and she is a frequent speaker at City Commission meetings when topics come up that she thinks will compromise the island she loves. She is at her studio nearly every day, continuing to inspire young people and share her love of dance. She credits her oldest daughter, Diane, for her dedication to the school. Smiling her contagious smile, Ms. Bean shares, “Luckily, my daughter Diane and my talented teachers carry on my traditions. Two of them are my grandchildren!”