In the course of one's life, there are people you meet who are so memorable they leave a deep and lasting impression on your heart. My friend Yvonne was among those precious people. I wrote about Yvonne here a month ago, about the beautiful Keukenhof Gardens she so loved back in her homeland of the Netherlands. Vases of beautiful tulips graced her home, reminders of her Dutch heritage.
I met Yvonne many years ago when we were involved in a "Legislative Weekend" here on Florida's Space Coast. The local Chambers of Commerce and others brought the entire Florida state legislature out of Tallahassee on a chartered plane to Brevard County so we could show them all that our area offered. And needed.
Yvonne was fun, savvy, and very much in love with life and whatever she was doing. I immediately felt drawn to her. We all did.
We both are members of the Civilian Military Council ("Civ-Mil"), an organization unique to Brevard County and one in which its members must be invited to join based on their contributions to the community. Yvonne's contributions were many, as a Rotarian, business woman, and much more. It seems she was continuously involved in a number of projects meant to better our lives here on this paradise we are all lucky enough to live in called the Space Coast.
Last January at the annual Civ-Mil Commander's Banquet at Patrick Air Force Base, we shared a table. Yvonne had been battling cancer for some time, and her hair was very short and pixie-ish, which suited her. Never a big woman, she had shrunk into a size 2, something she joked was "the good news" about cancer.
A few weeks ago, our friend Jean and I visited Yvonne. It was a pleasure to see her and be in her company again at her darling home situated at the end of a curving, oak tree canopied drive that led to the banks of the Banana River.
Though physically spent from a speaking engagement earlier in the day to a group of cancer patients (amazingly right to the end Yvonne was reaching out to help others), Yvonne was alert and her quick, wry humor was fully engaged. Lying on her sofa wrapped in a shawl, the politically astute Yvonne conversed about the world we live in today. She was not optimistic about the direction America was taking, and urged me to read “While England Slept“.
Over a glass of wine (Yvonne’s was a soft drink) as we chatted about current events, I paged through a photo album on her coffee table, reminiscing about the people and events connected to those images.
I think we all knew it this would probably be our last time together.
Colorful. Bright. Sparkling. Vivacious. Impish. Mischievous. Savvy. Generous. Talented… Yvonne’s presence among us was remarkable.
This morning I opened my email to read the inevitable…
Our dear friend and long time CivMil member Yvonne Bixby passed away Sunday. We will remember Yvonne for her irrepressible personality and vivaciousness. CivMil will make a contribution to the Civilian Military Community Foundation in Yvonne’s memory.
For many years Yvonne was a well known, independent business woman in Brevard County, Owner/CEO of “Yvonnes Travel” and Florida Travel Career School.
Upon selling the travel agencies and school, Yvonne opened up Creative Meetings, Inc., where she handled groups and conventions.
Yvonne had a lifetime of service to Brevard community and civic organizations. She was the first woman ever to be named to the Board of Directors and to serve as President of the South Brevard Chamber of Commerce. She was a member of the Tourist Development Council (“TDC”), served as its Chairman, represented the Arts and Film council and was honored with the Soloman Portrait of Excellence in Tourism Award.
She was a member of the Henegar Cultural Arts Center and served as its President. As a founding member of the Brevard Community Foundation she served as President and Chairman of the Board. She was also a founding member of Keep Brevard Beautiful and served as President.
As a member of the American Cancer Society she served two terms as President and was honored with the “Sword of Hope” award.
She was also a founding member of the Space Coast Tiger Bay Club and a member of the Civilian Military Council (CivMil). As current co-President of the Eau Gallie Rotary Club, she served two terms on the Board, and as the District Chairman of the Friendship Exchange.
The “Yvonne Bixby Lifetime Award” for Community and Rotary Service was established in 2009 and will be awarded on a yearly basis.
Yvonne was born October 17, 1946 in Lieshout, Netherlands to the late Anton Kessels and Yolanthe Poel. She was educated at the Gemeetelyk Lyceum in Eindhoven, and also studied in England, Germany, and France. She immigrated to the United States where she lived in Connecticut and Colorado, before moving to Brevard County in 1968.
She was married to the late Franklin Beck, and is survived by her two daughters, Marilyn Beck and Gwendolyn Beck, her sister Eline Verburg, niece Monique and nephew Rudolph from the Netherlands, and beloved friend, Dan Starkey.
The family wishes to thank Yvonne’s many wonderful friends who helped her in her fight against breast cancer – “carry on with the battle”.
In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the South Brevard Women’s Center, (Yvonne’s Gals Helping Hands) 1425 Aurora RD, Melbourne, 32935; or to the Eau Gallie Rotary Club, “Yvonne Bixby Lifetime Award”.