A Vietnam veteran, John Beverly left the war scarred with post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD. (PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents and physical or sexual assault. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time.)
“Moving to the country saved my life,” Beverly explains. “PTSD is hard because even in civilian life you’re exposed to a lot of war-related sounds and actions.” At work he became the target of vicious teasing. Mangers turned their heads to harassing behaviors by co-workers including lighting firecrackers to imitate the sounds of gun shots. Following a serious confrontation with a co-worker, he spent nine months at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital in North Chicago.
After that experience, the Beverlys escaped the callous, mean streets and found solace on a five-acre river front property far from the city. Since 1990, they have lived on 160 acres in a farming community in central Wisconsin. “It was hard moving to this area at first, being one of only three black families. We raised pigs, cattle, horses and other farm animals as well as cash crops. Back then to get top dollar, we had to get a white friend to sell our crops at auction. But it was still better than living in Milwaukee.” The lifestyle soon restored his spirit and deepened John and Mickey’s love for each other. Their four children were raised here. Retired now, they lease the land to a neighbor.
Using fruit from their land, during the past 15 years, Mickey has become a true vintner, winemaker extraordinaire. John busies himself restoring antique cars among other things. There’s always something to do.
Sharing her feelings about their present situation Mickey says, “I love the serenity of living in the country without the drama of the city. It’s a non stress environment — no gun shots, sirens or noise. I see the difference in my four children. They are just very peaceful, solid individuals. Our youngest son, landscaper John Jr. has a farm about five minutes away.
The happy place is an appropriate title for the Beverlys slice of heaven. Visiting the farm is a welcomed opportunity to sit on the porch that wraps around the house, smell the fresh air, laugh and enjoy the peace. It has and undoubtedly will continue to be the site for reunions, pumpkin farm field trips for children, church picnics and, on a regular basis, his beloved BULL FROGS.
Celebrating their 50th Anniversary in November, this brotherhood of high school friends — the Bull Frogs — was officially organized as a social club at the YMCA in 1963. They are best described by the mantra One for all. All for one. Although constant laughter and good times are a regular activity, their focus has shifted over the years to one of community service. In 2012 they donated seasonal clothing to a homeless shelter and Christmas food baskets. They also sponsor “Stamps to Home” a program designed to provide inmates with envelopes and postage to communicate with loved ones.
E. B. Garner, Owner, E.B.’s Fishing Club for Children, Allen T. Cocroft, Clarence Carter, Jay Meeks, President, John Beverly, and Halbert Algee — The Bull Frogs. Missing from photo: Frank Cameron, David Carter, Larry Wells and James Bledsoe.
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