Salt of the City: Lynda Beam

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Lynda Beam glides into view, a vision in crisp white linen and silver statement jewelry. “You’ve prompted me to research my life,” she says, “and the thing that’s most important to me, and always has been, is family.” Out in the barn, she introduces five Ossabaw Island donkeys, variously referring to them as “the girls” and by their given names: Kirby Sue, Peggy Sue, Marianna and grande dame Sandy Eleanor, best known for biting the tassel off the loafer of a visiting dignitary. (The fifth donkey has a name, but no one can remember it.)

Beam lives in Vernonburg, and she’s about as close to a native as you can get, having moved there with her parents when she was six weeks old. The family business is Guerry Lumber, a 90-year-old building outfit just south of Victory Drive — “everything to build anything,” the slogan goes. When Beam says “family,” she could mean her children and grandchildren, her friends and neighbors or her employees, some of whom have worked for Guerry for thirty years. When she says “home,” she might mean Savannah, or Vernonburg or a 2000-acre tree farm full of longleaf and loblolly pine fifty miles away in Oliver, Georgia — an hour’s drive, she says, “or fifty minutes, if you were with Daddy.” 

Beyond family, Beam’s greatest passion is the environment. “Savannah grows in fits and starts,” she says. “Growth for its own sake is not progress, but it can be wonderful if it’s thoughtful and well-planned for the entire community. We have to practice stewardship of all of our resources — our children, air, water, the land, everything. There’s always something to care for.”