PENINSULA WOMAN: Guardian of the songs, stories in LaPush

LAPUSH — Beverly Loudon has lived all her life in a place that lures people from around the world, with its high Pacific waves, soft, fog-filtered light — and now, stories of teen romance.

And when seekers pull into LaPush, Loudon shares her quiet pride, along with an authentic welcome that visitors remember long after they’ve left this remote spot.

Nearly three years after the release of the first “Twilight” movie, the phenomenon is alive and well on and near LaPush’s beaches.

Just this weekend, the communities of Forks and LaPush held Stephenie Meyer Day and a “Bella’s birthday” breakfast, feting the Twilight author and heroine.

LaPush, according to the saga, is the home of Jacob Black, a Quileute werewolf and a rival for Bella’s affections.

And in the midst of all this fuss over fiction is Loudon — Miss Beverly to her family and friends — a petite woman who stands tall for her nation’s true stories.

Last week, she met two young women from California who had come to see LaPush and to moon a bit over the settings for the Twilight novels. After introducing herself, Miss Beverly invited them to the weekly meal and healing drum circle held in the Quileute Community Hall.

“I told them we eat first, and then we introduce the visitors . . . I told them they are more than welcome to come down and be part of our drum group,” Loudon said.

At a recent Wednesday evening circle — held as an affirmation of tribal members’ and others’ choices to live drug- and alcohol-free — Miss Beverly acted as a thread, circulating around the room, talking with teenagers and greeting the elders.

On one side of the room she admired Pearl Penn, the baby girl just born the previous day to Jessica Brimmer; minutes later, when a blanket was presented to Eileen and Chris “Jigs” Penn in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary on Sept. 10, Miss Beverly beamed and applauded.

While Loudon’s roots are deep in LaPush, she is a worldly woman.

Born to John and Mabel Jackson in 1943, she is the daughter of a Quileute fisherman father and a mother who belonged to the Esquimalt band of Vancouver Island.

“I wear both flags proudly,” she said of the Canadian and U.S. flags pinned to her turtleneck sweater.

These days, Miss Beverly serves as a kind of envoy for the Quileute tribe, attending Twilight gatherings around the state and serving on an advisory committee for the Seattle Art Museum, where last month an exhibition of Quileute art opened.

The collection of wolf masks, historical photographs and other art objects, on display until mid-August 2011, is a counterpoint to the Quileutes-as-werewolves aspect of the Twilight franchise.

“We’re not werewolves,” she said. “We’re descendants of wolves,” who hold a close connection to the natural world.

At the same time, Loudon calls the Twilight spotlight on her people a good thing. She takes pleasure in introducing people to her tribe’s culture, which has been handed down, generation to generation, since the Ice Age.

To a reporter, she offers a set of index cards on which she has written a few phrases evoking Quileute values: harmony among people and other beings; respect and consideration for others; stability; and most of all, love as a way of life.

“The base of all things is love,” Loudon wrote. “Love will heal. Any human who is loving will be guaranteed respect.”

While Miss Beverly is playfully called “Jacob’s aunt” by the Twilight crowd, her own story is richer.

She was one of 11 children, born “in the center,” she says, between three older brothers and two younger, plus three older sisters and two younger.

In the 1970s, Miss Beverly went to work as a cook at the Quileute Tribal School’s Head Start program and would devote 28 years to the preschoolers there. These days, she sees the kids she fed working for tribal operations in LaPush and raising their own families.

In 1999, she left Head Start to care for her husband, Jack Loudon, who had become ill with prostate cancer. Jack died in 2001, leaving behind his three sons and two daughters, Miss Beverly’s stepchildren. They live in Gig Harbor and Orting.

Now, Miss Beverly takes part in all manner of endeavors in LaPush and Forks, including Global Citizens Network visits, volunteer projects with the tribe and Quileute Days in July, during which actor Gil Birmingham, who portrays Jacob’s father, Billy Black, in the “Twilight” movies, came to LaPush.

Loudon was one of those who welcomed the actor, of course, just as she welcomes the non-famous.

“Miss Beverly represents everything that is truly Quileute,” said Jackie Jacobs, the tribe’s publicist.

Loudon’s customary greeting is an embrace, and when it comes time to say goodbye, she says “I love you,” and offers another hug, Jacobs added. “There’s a consistency you look forward to,” once you’ve made her acquaintance.

Jacobs, a member of the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina, had never traveled to the North Olympic Peninsula before coming to work for the Quileute Nation 15 months ago. She calls the Quileute one of the most hospitable tribes in this country.

“Miss Beverly embodies that so perfectly,” she added.

Anna Rose Counsell-Geyer, chairwoman of the Quileute Nation, grew up in LaPush, then went away for 20 years.

“When I returned in 2005 and got reacquainted with my people, one who really stood out was Miss Beverly,” she said.

Now Counsell-Geyer coordinates teams of volunteers who come to work in LaPush. She’s seen Loudon greet groups as large as 100 — and take time with each individual.

“When our volunteers are ready to return home,” Counsell-Geyer added, “she’ll sing a song to wish them safe travels.”

Loudon is a guardian of Quileute songs, stories and dances, and thus travels to events the Quileute tribe is part of.

At public performances such as the one Aug. 14 at the Seattle Art Museum, she gently reminds observers when the time comes to put away cameras.

Loudon participates in many Forks events, too, from the Cherish the Children fundraiser in late fall to the Last Chance Salmon Derby next month.

“Bev is wherever there’s action,” said Marcia Bingham, director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce. “She is effervescent, with a perpetual smile on her face . . . and she is always willing to help.”

Loudon’s good cheer, Counsell-Geyer added, is a reflection of the value she places on kindness.

“She loves to share. And to see her welcome people the way she does, it’s a true gift,” the chairwoman said.

“She is very passionate; she has a lot of strength within her.”

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