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Friday, April 5, 2024
11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)
Beatrice Birkbeck Muller was born on August 8, 1929 in Wadsworth, Ohio. Her mother, Velma Auble Birkbeck, was a school teacher in the town of Wadsworth, and her father, William George Birkbeck, was a farmer and woodworker. She spent much of her Depression-era childhood learning many skills and family values from her dad on the Birkbeck farm (including how to drive a tractor by age 10). She was an outstanding student and won numerous academic awards. Her love of music flourished, initially at the piano bench as a young girl, and later by singing in the school choir and playing flute in both the school orchestra and marching band.
Tragedy hit when her dear older brother Norman was killed in Germany at the end of World War II and she, at the age of 16, became an only child. She became even more independent after that and did many jobs, from milking to babysitting, to help supplement the family’s income. She also took care of her young cousin Danny Oxford for a summer.
After graduating from Wadsworth High School in 1947, Bea went to Cleveland and enrolled in St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing. During that time she met Don Rense and they married. When Don was called overseas with the U.S. Army to a military hospital in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1954, Bea followed. She had told no one she was already four months pregnant when she made the long journey, as they would not have allowed her to go. Don and Bea lived upstairs in a little apartment off-base in Fukuoka, and in January of 1955, Mark was born. Bea made several friends locally and in the service, and was seen often pushing Mark in his stroller through the markets.
By 1957, the family was back home and living on Edgehill Rd. in Cleveland Heights, where their second son Timothy was born in 1958. Bea worked part-time at St. Luke’s in Cleveland to maintain her nursing certifications. The family moved to South Park Blvd. in Shaker Heights in 1963, a home they would enjoy for almost 30 years. When the boys were teens, Bea returned to full-time nursing to be a staff Registered Nurse at St. Luke’s. She worked there for 43 years in total, eventually rising to become a senior Nurse Manager, and retired in 1992.
Music and service remained important to Bea during this era, and she volunteered her time to PTAs, the Cleveland Institute of Music Women’s Board, the Achievement Centers for Children’s board, the Women’s Committee of the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs. Her piano playing ability was well-respected, and she accompanied both her sons in numerous band and orchestra solo competitions. She was also known for her ability to write lyrics, and she performed in many skits and shows for charity over the years.
After Don passed away, Bea married Max M. Muller in 1992 and they moved onto Canterbury Ln. in Shaker Heights. She and Max had a passion for life, spending their time skiing, gardening, biking, and traveling to places like Switzerland (Max was Swiss), the Middle East, and even RV road-tripping out West. They were members of the Skating Club, Shaker Heights Country Club, Union Club, Plymouth Church, and Cleveland Playreaders, and they formed lasting friendships with artists they housed for the Cleveland Opera. Bea became an avid golfer; she was awarded for getting her golf ball in the “most water” but went on to win a 9-Hole tournament at age 85. She also joined Intown Club, became a reader at the Cleveland Sight Center, and was a dedicated member of the Plymouth Church choir. Bea was devoted to her acquired family, Toby and Elizabeth Muller of Oklahoma, and her step-grandsons Ben and Max III.
Her husband Max died in 1999 and in 2003, Bea began seeing Bob Pugsley. They spent several years together, traveling, writing silly songs, and visiting with each other’s families. In the spring of 2022, Bea moved into Hamlet of Chagrin Falls. She passed away on December 12, 2023.
Bea is survived by her son Mark S. Rense of Chesterland, Ohio; her granddaughters Sarah E. Rense of New York, New York, and Allison O. Rense of Boston, Massachusetts; and her long-time “adopted son” Bruce Koscheck of Parma, Ohio. Her son Timothy K. Rense passed away in January of 2022.
We remember her as warm, kind, and outgoing – the kind of woman who made wonderful friends wherever she went. She was feisty and fiercely funny, and she had a song to suit every moment. She was also a bit bullheaded, as anyone who knew her will fondly recall. We will cherish the memories of family meals around her dining room table; her house always felt like home.
A celebration of Bea’s life will be held at Plymouth Church (2860 Coventry Rd, Shaker Heights, OH 44120) Friday, April 5th at 11 am followed by a reception and then burial in Wadsworth, Ohio. The family prefers that those who wish may make contributions in her name to Hospice of Western Reserve (300 E 185th St, Cleveland, OH 44119) or the Cleveland Institute of Music (11021 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106).