Muses of her own: Tampa, heritage, family

By ANDREW MEACHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published January 8, 2008

Dolores Beard's vanity publisher wanted her money more than her poetry, but she didn't care.

"She had a whole bookshelf of books that published her works," said her son, Michael Beard, 53.

Her online photo for a poetry Web site is all flash and style - long black hair, black eyes, a red sash and lipstick, violet eye shadow.

More than 30 of Ms. Beard's poems published online frequently honor her Castilian heritage, the Tampa Bay landscape or her family members.

"The bay offers a poetic vision of my beautiful Florida," she wrote in an author's note. "This is all home to me. I am Florida."

Ms. Beard, known to friends as Fifi Miguel, died Friday. She was 71.

She grew up near Tampa's Six Mile Creek, where her father owned a garage. She loved everything artistic and did well at everything she tried.

"She came from a long line of musicians, and I was a violinist," said her mother, Ruth Miguel, 91. "But she was overly talented, more so than any of us."

She painted, sang, played the guitar, won a statewide 4-H contest, twirled a baton in the Gasparilla parade.

Then one day she met Tommy Beard, who had brought his hot rod to her dad's shop.

"She was part Spanish and part Cracker," said Beard, 72. She had long legs and a short fuse. "Boy, she had a temper," Beard recalled.

They got married when Ms. Beard was 16. They divorced after a dozen years but remained friends.

Ms. Beard loved music, from Elvis to country and rock. In the 1960s, she spotted Jimi Hendrix early and knew he would be a star. In the 1970s, she attended a Led Zeppelin concert at Tampa Stadium with her son. National Guardsmen bowled her over when the crowd got rowdy.

On Dec. 26, Ms. Beard visited her mother and immediately complained of chest pains.

Ms. Beard went out to the Wal-Mart, bought an antihistamine and declared herself better.

Miguel begged her daughter to spend the night, but Ms. Beard insisted on going home.

"She went to the carport and said, 'I wish you could see the moon, Mother. It's just beautiful tonight,'" her mother recalled.

Then an animated Ms. Beard returned to face her mother.

"She put her hands on the railing," Miguel said. "She had the most angelic look on her face. She said, 'I love you, Mother. I love you.'"

While driving home, Ms. Beard suffered a heart attack, from which she never regained consciousness.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at ameacham@sptimes.com or 813 661-2431.


Dolores Beard

Born: Nov. 29, 1936.

Died: Jan. 4, 2008.

Survivors: mother, Ruth Miguel; son, Michael Beard; daughter, Jana Beard; grandson, Michael "Carlo" Beard; several nieces and nephews.

Service: 2 p.m. Wednesday, Hillsboro Memorial Gardens, 2323 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon.