Bev Nihem is a survivor, and there is no question about it. Coming up on her milestone 70th birthday on April 24, she received an early celebration of her life on March 23 when she was this month’s honored elder at the House of Respect Elders Center luncheon.
Sitting down with her husband David before lunch was served, Bev told of her earliest years, born in Tacoma to Catherine and Robert Davis-Nihem. Bev had an older brother, Willy David (now deceased) and sister Roberta Young, who was a recording secretary for and later an elected member of the Puyallup Tribal Council.
Bev and David met as seniors at Lincoln High School in 1969 (where Bev was on the Marching Team) and married three years later. Then soon came son Erik, now 43. All these 52 years later, high school sweethearts Bev and David still rely on each other, with their commitment to one another staying strong when “for better or worse” became a sobering reality as Bev’s health began to suffer.
Bev worked in some high positions early in her professional career. She started out working in the 1960s for the city’s department of narcotics as a secretary then she moved to secretary for the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and eventually rose to become executive secretary for DSHS region 5 director in Tacoma.
Then around 1977 things changed abruptly when Bev suffered a brain aneurism. She went through six week of rehabilitation at Good Samaritan (“Good Sam”) hospital and eventually got her drivers license back to where she could move about more independently. The experience left her with a touch of aphasia, making it sometimes difficult for her to understand or express speech.
“We just keep on keepin’ on,” as husband David put it, and this is exactly what the couple did through Bev’s future health concerns that included breast cancer, osteoporosis and a hip replacement. Now about two years past her chemotherapy treatments, Bev continues to heal, and being at the Elders Luncheon that day no doubt did much for her spirit and soul.
She and David both expressed much gratitude for the Tribe, which really came to their rescue when they needed it most.
“Getting the per-capita was the key to everything, getting our lives back together,” David said. “The Tribe has been a lifesaver all the way with medicine and money, cleaning the house… You name it and they’ve done it for us. We’d be under a bridge without them.”