WWII veteran recounts a century in the Merrimack Valley

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May 26—METHUEN — Looking back, one of Frederick Beeley's fondest memories was when he was nine years old, working as a caddie at the Merrimack Valley Golf Course.

It was the early-1930s and Beeley, who now lives on Howe Street, was paid 25 cents to carry someone else's golf clubs across 18 holes.

He and his four brothers, Bill, Dick, Peter and Howie, who were also caddies, learned to play golf at Merrimack Valley and were affectionately known as the Beeley Boys.

"That was 91 years ago," Beeley said during his 100th birthday celebration on May 22 at Merrimack Valley.

His daughter, Donna Berube, said the golf course was chosen as the party venue to recognize the place where her father fell in love with the game of golf.

"That was his first job, caddying right here," she said.

By the age of 20, Beeley was working at the Charlestown Navy Yard when he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. His decision to join the military was made when one of his friends was drafted.

"I didn't see him for four years and he eventually married my sister," Beeley said.

During the war, Beeley served as a mechanic on B-17s and B-29s. He also commanded a gun crew. Beeley served in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946 and is now listed in the Methuen Field of Honor.

As of November 2021, there were approximately 5,500 World War II veterans living in Massachusetts, according to the National World War II Museum.

After returning to Methuen, Beeley established his own oil company, F.J. Beeley and Son, which he operated for 34 years.

"I had 1,500 accounts at that time," he said. "I built it up from nothing."

In addition, Beeley was recently honored as Veteran of The Day at Fenway Park.

"38,000 people were all cheering," he said.

Beeley also has an extensive family network that includes four children, 12 grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

"I have a lot of family and I love them all," he said.