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America Loses A Prized Rural Demographer

Demographer Calvin Beale poured his life's energy into understanding rural America. Beale, who died Sept. 1, helped focus federal policy by visiting thousands of far-flung counties.

Residents would encounter a tall stranger with a thick white mustache and large glasses who seemed intent on learning all there was to know about their corner of America. Beale would then return to Washington with new ideas of what rural life is like — and how to improve it.

Beale died of colon cancer; his friends report that he had never retired and was sorry not to see more of America.

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Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.