FARGO — At North Dakota Agricultural College — now known as North Dakota State University — Beverly Halbeisen Blanich served as class president and acted in Little Country Theatre. After graduating in 1945, she and her friend June Dobervich lamented a lack of opportunities for acting after college.
That needed to change, they decided — and within a year they formed what would become the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre and staged its first performance, “My Sister Eileen.”
Blanich’s influential involvement in the local arts community was recalled by friends and family this week after she died Sunday, March 22, at her daughter Tania’s home under hospice care at age 96.
“She was always into the arts,” Tania said, recalling her mother’s interest in acting, painting and particularly dancing.
Bev, as she preferred to be called, opened a dance studio in 1947, where she would teach more than 2,000 students until she closed the business in 1988. She didn’t just teach the classes, she wrote scripts and designed costumes for her students’ performances.
“It was pretty lavish,” Tania remembers.
Catherine Parks Olsen recalls the hours and the detail Miss Halbeisen, as she was known to her students, spent on designing costumes for shows. Parks Olsen took classes from third grade through high school, becoming her assistant and even family babysitter.
“She meant the world to me. She was probably more influential to my life than some of my family,” Parks Olsen said. “I always looked up to her and wanted to live up to her standards.”
Bev taught more than dance, her former student said — she taught discipline, respect and kindness.
“She was very measured. She chose her words very carefully and she was very thoughtful,” Parks Olsen recalled. “She had a quick sense of humor and could be sarcastic, but was always careful to make sure no one’s feelings got hurt.”
Bonnie Haney, who took classes as a young child through high school, echoed those feelings.
“She had a kind heart. She was very special, very creative and artistic. She was just a delight,” Haney said. “I feel very blessed to have had a teacher like her in my life.”
Haney went on to be a successful dancer and teacher and for more than 30 years has run the Bonnie Haney School of Dance and Performing Company. She says Bev's influence was a factor in her own love of dance and teaching.
“She was a wonderful teacher and very inspirational,” Haney says.
“I don’t think she said, ‘I’m going to be an inspiration to women.’ She just was. She was an example of how you can live your life on your own terms,” Tania said. “She ran her own business and did her own books for 41 years and that was a big deal then.”
Even after she hung up her dancing shoes, Bev was still a leader, teaching water aerobics at the YMCA for 17 years.
“The hilarious thing is, Mom couldn’t swim,” Tania said with a laugh.
When YMCA staffers told Beverly she needed to swim to be certified to teach the class, “that was the end of mom’s aqua aerobics teaching career.”
Though she slowed down over the years and recently moved in with Tania to be cared for by her and her sister Tamara, Beverly remained “elegant, a class act,” Tania says.
“Even until the end, she wanted to put lipstick on before the nurses came,” Tania said. “She cared about those things.”
A celebration of life will be scheduled in the future.