The Haskell Indian Nations University community suffered a tragedy on Friday with the passing of Althea “Bea” Dawn Tapahonso Eaton, the university’s self-proclaimed “postmistress” who was a beloved figure on campus.
First reported by The Indian Leader, Haskell’s student newspaper, Eaton’s unexpected death at age 50 is a “great loss” for the university community.
Eaton, the Indian Leader reported, was the adviser for Off-Campus Club, served on the Commencement Committee, and helped students with children find Christmas gifts. According to Eaton’s obituary, she “immersed herself” in her 15 years of work at Haskell, where she was also an alumna.
“Students knew her as a caring and supportive ‘Auntie’ figure on campus who got to know students by name. She also offered her services to Haskell by helping her co-workers and colleagues on committees and various projects on campus,” the obituary reads. “The Haskell community will miss her deep support and dedication.”
There is a fundraiser set up to cover her funeral costs and support her children. That is available here.
Haskell President Ronald Graham’s office directed The Lawrence Times to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which governs Haskell, for comment. The Bureau did not immediately respond to that request on Monday.
According to the Indian Leader, Eaton is the fifth member of Haskell’s staff to die in the last year. David Charles Bohannon, 58; Nia Schexnider, 30; Margaret Ann “Sis” (Eagle) Wermy, 64; and Patricia Wakolee preceded Eaton in death.
Eaton is survived by two children and her mother, among others. A viewing will take place Tuesday, 4 p.m. at the Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, 601 Indiana St. Graveside services will be held in New Mexico later this week.