DEMING – It was 1954 when a young traveler named Robert Beach was hitching rides on his way from Tampa, FL to Los Angeles, CA. His rides stalled one chilly night in Deming, NM.
Sixty-seven years later, Beach contacted the Deming-Luna Chamber of Commerce on January 10, 2021 and told his story about his brief stay in Deming to the new Executive Director Debbie Troyer.
Beach was 24 when he was dropped off in Deming. Troyer said Beach remembered being tired, hungry, and cold. With no money in his pocket, he wondered where he might spend the night.
Police officers approached Beach standing downtown and he begged them to take him to jail just so he could be warm. The officers of course refused his request as he had not committed a crime.
Beach found a business doorway and settled in for the night.
When morning came, Beach recalled an Asian man walked out of the building and asked him how he might help and then proceeded to hand him a bag of donuts. “These were likely the best donuts Robert had ever tasted,” Troyer said.
Beach, now 90, told Troyer he phoned the chamber to say that he had never forgotten this man’s kindness. After 50 years serving as a judge and entering retirement, Beach wanted to say thank you to the community of Deming by sending a $1,000 check to a local homeless shelter. “I believe pay it forward is the proper term for this gesture,” Troyer assumed.
Beach told Troyer that he believed the road where this bakery stood was on Deming’s main street (Pine). “What might that look like back in 1954,” Troyer wondered. “I’ll ask our community.”
First, she posted Beach’s story on the Chamber of Commerce and Community Facebook page where several folks thought Robert might be referring to the Bowman’s Bakery on Pine Street.
While the Facebook community continued its search, Debra French, from The Deming-Luna-Mimbres Museum Archives joined in the search eventually phoning Helen Bowman Wilcox, Fletcher “Shanty” Bowman’s sister, who said that her father did not have any Asian employees at the bakery.
The community continued its search while French and her co-workers continued to look through old phone directories and cross reference families of Asian descent who may have owned a bakery. Finally, they decided they had come to a dead end.
Margaret Fairman of Silver Linings Thrift Store and Camp Silver for the homeless spoke with Beach over the phone and the generous check he promised – a check representing the kindness of Deming – was delivered to Fairman in early February.
Silver Linings and Camp Silver provides temporary camping in tents, meals, personal hygiene supplies and resources to help the homeless population in Deming and Luna County. The nonprofit organization is supplemented by the operation of a thrift store that takes in donations of gently-used clothing and wares.
The Honorable Judge Beach had hoped to personally thank the bakery owner for his kindness, but the bakery no longer exists.
“The Chamber would like to thank Judge Robert Beach for bringing Deming together in their search for the mysterious baker,” Troyer said.
“We will let you ponder the owner of this generous bakery from the past and perhaps this story will find some answers.”
Troyer said she will not soon forget the conversations with Beach and his daughter Stephanie any time soon. “Best story ever,” Debbie claimed in her original Facebook post. “Such a kind and interesting man.”
This message from Beach was sent to Troyer at the Deming-Luna Chamber of Commerce:
“Dear Debbie: Thanks for the great telephone call today. I appreciate all the work you and your friends are doing to find my hero baker. Thanks to all of you. Your new friend, Bob.”
Aside from being a Judge, Mr. Beach told Troyer he was a bartender in Las Vegas, NV where he had a drink with Frank Sinatra. He also bartended at St. Pete Beach and upstate New York.
After passing the bar exam, the judge worked doing civil trial work. In 1968 he was appointed as a circuit judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit where he served for 50 years. In 1994, he appeared on Broadway in the play, “Beauty and the Beast” at the Place Theater in New York as Anton the Egg Man.
Judge Beach rode a Harley-Davidson all over California, Arizona and into Mexico. “…A world traveler and a camper,” he added
Judge Beach is one of the founders of the Master’s Swimming program. Keeping in good health and active has been his goal. In fact, on his 87th birthday, he became the oldest person to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco and complete it successfully. He also swam the Golden Gate Swim the following day – the oldest to ever complete that swim also.