BGES Members Making a Difference: Charleen Bearce-Lambert 1935-2019

Char Lambert (left), on a BGES tour

Charleen Lambert was a member of the Blue and Gray Education Society for more than 20 years before she passed away in early 2019 at the age of 83. I am raising her profile because she never received the accolades she deserved for all she did for the preservation community and the BGES.

I met her about 20 years ago on a BGES tour. While women are not unusual participants, she was memorable because she was the family member most interested in the Civil War—a natural outcropping of her longstanding interest and proficiency in genealogy. She would register and attend just over 80 BGES tours in ten years’ time. The program could hardly start before Char’s Massachusetts plates pulled into the hotel, and within minutes she was engaged.

An Accounting Star

Char was one of BGES’s earliest volunteers, and as a CPA with an active and exclusive business on and around Cape Cod, she made the time to guide me in the ways of bookkeeping for nonprofits. When our manual system became too cumbersome, she helped us subscribe to and set up a QuickBooks online account in 2005—we have been using it ever since.  Not only that, but she also trained us on how to use it and prescribed all the little corners and hiding places we needed to make the organization legal and to place all the money where it belonged.  CPAs do not often get lauded, but her work with us was truly transformative—she made it possible for us to operate and put all the money where it needed to be and to generate management reports that told us how we were doing. About 15 years ago, we gave the  “Dad” Volunteer Award—she was characteristically humble in receiving it during a program in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Char Lambert with a grandchild

Yankee to the Roots

Char was a character of real consequence. A direct and no-nonsense northern Yankee, she put many a Southern cavalier in his place, and yet she was the friend of many and respected by all. She knew her stuff, and her contributions were thoughtful, educated, and interesting. As Char’s health began to deteriorate, and the needs of her husband Bill demanded more of her time, she transitioned into Grandma for the children of her five kids—all were fine representatives of the values she and Bill held dear. At life’s end, she had 14 grand- and great-grandchildren.

Final Farewell

Char’s last program was at the USMA at West Point. We were at Fort Putnam as the rest of the group was in the fort. We sat down looking over the Hudson River, and she reflected how much America and its history meant to her. We were political and ideological opposites who argued about everything, and yet we were fast friends. We reminisced over the many great places we had gone and talked about her distant relative Ed Bearss (Bearce). She said she wouldn’t be on any more tours, and while we talked again by phone, it was never as often as it should have been. And now that she is gone nearly a year, I realize what we have lost: ”She was a woman of rare good character and I considered it a honor to have known her.”

Thank you for allowing me this tribute to the friend of many. Char was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a Descendent of a traveler on the Mayflower—a true member of the First Families of America society. Thanks to Lee McDowell and Parker Hills for helping me find these photographs—they capture the person. Enjoy!

Char Lambert pencil sketch