Award-winning ex-Ark reporter Hannah Beausang had a thirst for knowledge, adventure
Hannah Beausang, an award-winning Ark reporter who found continued success at the Petaluma Argus-Courier and Santa Rosa Press Democrat, died Oct. 6 in San Diego. She was 30.
According to her mother, Ms. Beausang died by suicide after an extended period of chronic pain and clinical depression.
“That girl was a light bulb,” Sandy Beausang said. “She was extraordinary. We’ve had an outpouring of love from her. We were glad to have had her as long as we did. I will always remember her as a blessing.”
Born April 27, 1992, in Shingle Springs, about 30 miles west of Sacramento in the Sierra foothills, she was the only child of Tom and Sandy Beausang and grew up without TV. When she wasn’t curled up reading — she got her own library card at age 5 and was known to use breaks at The Ark to check out chin-high stacks of books from the Belvedere-Tiburon Library — she was exploring the 1-acre backyard of her rural home and beyond.
From girlhood, she loved to hike, ride horses and go camping. She went to Europe in her junior year of high school and wanted to travel the world.
At San Diego State University, where she was editor of the Daily Aztec, she earned a degree in journalism. She also interned as a public-safety reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune the semester before her 2014 graduation.
That summer, at age 22, she was hired as The Ark’s Belvedere and public-safety reporter, winning eight California News Publishers Association awards and one National Newspaper Association award for coverage of breaking news, government, business, education and sports over her 18 months through December 2015.
“I knew Hannah was right for The Ark when she confidently and effortlessly turned her job interview around on me and had us answering all her questions instead,” Executive Editor Kevin Hessel said. “Right out of college she had the grit and instincts of a seasoned reporter and brought energy and vibrancy into her work and into the newsroom. She was such a bright light, and it seemed as though everyone who knew her knew she was special. She touched a lot of lives for the better.”
During her time in Marin, one of her joys was learning about a small used bookstore in San Rafael, where she would ensconce herself in the armchair and read the paperback book she’d bought.
She next joined the Argus-Courier, first as features editor and later as news editor, winning top state journalism honors for features writing, breaking news, agricultural reporting and coverage of local government.
In 2017, she pitched in to help the Argus-Courier’s sister daily, the Press Democrat, with its coverage of the Tubbs fire, in which 5,000 homes burned down, “driving the length of the still-smoldering Sonoma Valley to talk to survivors,” contributing to the mountain of coverage of that fire, former Argus-Courier editor Matt Brown said.
When the paper’s sports editor, John Jackson, lost his house in the Tubbs fire, she raised money to help him buy new clothes, Brown said.
In May 2018, the Press Democrat plucked her from the Argus-Courier for an open reporting role the same week it learned it won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Tubbs fires that had devastated Santa Rosa the year before.
Ms. Beausang left the Press Democrat in February 2019 to study Spanish and obtain a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate. She traveled to Mexico and Central America, where she spent nearly a year.
She returned to California to prepare for a new assignment teaching English in Japan and traveling in Southeast Asia, but the pandemic shutdown stalled those plans.
Instead, she rented a house with two other women and worked as a grant writer for Sacramento Steps Forward and then Accion Opportunity Fund, figuring she might carve out a new career as a nonprofit consultant, which would leave her time to travel. She also freelanced as a multimedia journalist, pitching and writing content about Guatemala for California publications.
She loved adventure. She tried skydiving, scuba diving and zip-lining. She loved backpacking and was learning to rock-climb.
A gifted photographer, she documented her life exploring nature and connecting with other people and other cultures. She and a close friend, whom she considered a brother, would go out on photographic expeditions together, seeking the perfect image under the perfect light.
where to find help
On average, nine Californians lose their lives to suicide every day. Ninety percent of individuals who die by suicide had a diagnosable mental illness or substance-abuse disorder at the time of their death, with a primary cause being untreated clinical depression.
• If you are in a crisis or worried about someone who may be suicidal, immediately call the new Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988.
• For those in a crisis who are more comfortable communicating by text message, you may also text the Bay Area Crisis Text Line with keyword GGB to short code 741741.
• For additional resources, call the Marin Suicide Prevention and Community Counseling Hotline at 415-499-1100; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), which also has resources at 988lifeline.org. Learn more about education and prevention programs through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org.
Increasingly, however, she suffered from chronic health problems, which her mother speculated may have been from exposure to smoke during her wildfire reporting while also mentally processing the extent of devastation.
“She was dying inside,” her mother said. “After covering the wildfires, she wasn’t the same. That was too much pain at one time,” she said, referring to all the interviews of survivors who’d lost homes and family members. She said her daughter took things to heart.
Outwardly, however, Ms. Beausang continued to show the joy and capacity for friendship she was known for.
“A star that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” said her father, Tom. “My daughter touched many lives in her 30 years. She was like an old soul. So many people loved her.”
A memorial gathering organized by friends was held Oct. 16 in Sacramento, but her parents said they also plan to hold a celebration of her life at a later date.
Reach Tiburon reporter Deirdre McCrohan at 415-944-4634.