Woman's death prompts family and friends to march for awareness
The world lost a vibrant, compassionate person July 14 when Shereen Terkelsen Beaulieu's estranged husband shot her to death, say her family and friends.
They and her sister's coworkers at First National Bank of River Falls will march in her memory this Saturday morning during the annual Domestic Abuse Awareness Walk organized by Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Shereen's younger and only sister, Jane Terkelsen, keeps this note from a sympathy card as a constant reminder: "She had so much living yet to do. She'd surely want us to do it in her name."
"I'm still kind of numb, like it's not real," said Jane, holding back tears Monday. "It's like she's on a long vacation, and she'll come home sometime."
Although Shereen, 51, had moved to Madison, the sisters often e-mailed and talked by phone, and Shereen came home to St. Croix County often.
"She was much more of a 'people person' than I consider myself," Jane, who lives in River Falls and has worked at First National for 16 years. "Nobody was a stranger with her. She was very friendly."
While details of what happened will probably never be known, this is what is: Robert Beaulieu's neighbors heard a gunshot about 5 p.m. July 14. Police who were called to the scene found Beaulieu, 61, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his apartment on Madison's south side.
Authorities called his son and asked him to come to the hospital, telling him not to come alone. Brian Beaulieu couldn't reach his mother by phone, nor did she answer the door when he went to her apartment in MacFarland. When authorities entered the apartment, they found Shereen, 51, dead of a gunshot wound.
There was no sign of struggle in her apartment, and Bob left no note in his.
In hindsight and as friends and family put together bits and pieces of conversation and e-mails, Jane says there were hints that Shereen was afraid of her husband -- at least in the last few days of her life.
The two women, the daughters of Hanley and Marie Terkelsen, grew up on a farm near Woodville.
After graduating from Baldwin-Woodville High School, Shereen attended Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire to become an administrative assistant. She also attended UW-Eau Claire and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at Lakeland College in Sheboygan in 1998.
She worked in the Eau Claire County Human Services Department for 13 years.
Shereen married Bob Beaulieu in August 1977. They had two sons, Brian and Michael.
The Beaulieus separated about five years ago when they lived in Eau Claire. In early 2007 Shereen moved to Madison to take a job as grants specialist at UW-Madison and to be closer to her son, grandson and daughter-in-law. She also worked part-time at Wal-Mart.
When he sold their home in western Wisconsin, Bob also moved to Madison. Shereen let him stay with her for a couple of weeks until he found his own place.
Sister sought divorce
"He wasn't a violent man at all," said Jane. But, she said, he was an alcoholic, a condition that cost him a job. She also believes he was verbally abusive.
Five years after their separation and about a month before her death, Shereen began the paperwork to get a divorce.
"She had talked about it on and off for awhile," said Jane. "I think she was finally ready to get on with her life."
Jane said family and friends had suggested it was time to get a divorce, warning Shereen that she could be held liable if, for example, Bob caused a traffic accident while drunk.
Despite the separation, Bob sometimes came to Terkelsen family functions and always came for Christmas, said Jane. The last time she saw him was at a family birthday party and Father's Day gathering in June.
"He wasn't real friendly that day," said Jane, recalling that her brother-in-law didn't reply when she said hello. But she knew her sister had just filed for divorce and attributed his attitude to that.
Shereen and Bob rode back to Madison in the same vehicle. Shortly after in an e-mail to her daughter-in-law, Shereen said Bob was coming over to work on financial statements needed for the divorce, that she would fix them a meal and that he could use her building's swimming pool.
"She was still being amicable," said Jane.
Like an iceberg
Just two weeks before her death, Shereen visited Woodville. She seemed happy and there were no indications she was fearful.
But, said Jane, domestic abuse is like an iceberg: "There is only so much above the surface, and there's so much below the surface you don't see or know about."
After her sister's death, Jane learned that Shereen had told Bob's sister that she was afraid to be alone with him.
Jane also learned that a family member had suggested Shereen get a restraining order, but Shereen had replied that she knew Bob and could read his moods.
Friends had advised her to be cautious. She said she would.
"I think through it all, she thought she could always talk him out of it (violence)," said Jane.
Also, she said, her sister made light of her problems, telling another friend, "Oh yes, we're having a little drama down here."
Her sister was a strong, competent woman who earned her college degree while working fulltime and raising her sons. Perhaps, too, she wanted to protect her family and friends, said Jane.
"She was just one of those people who could handle a lot," said Jane
Since her sister's death, Jane said she's learned much about alcoholism and domestic abuse.
"I've learned that people can't take any type of domestic abuse lightly," said Jane. If Shereen's family and friends had all been in the same room and had connected the pieces each had, they might have been able to prevent her death, said her sister.
Maybe they would have stepped in to save Shereen, realizing that Bob, who was still drinking and had made no friends in Madison, was a danger.
"I'm sure that's why Bob couldn't let go of her -- because she was so nice to him," said Jane.
She quoted a friend, who has since gotten help for an acquaintance who was being abused: "I'm not going to let this happen to anyone else."