David Beele, 61, of Springfield, Delaware County, a social worker at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for more than 31 years, died Wednesday, June 9, of lymphoma at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Beele joined the staff of Children's in 1978 and had been a social worker in the oncology division since 1990.

While doctors treated children's cancers, Mr. Beale counseled parents and provided information about programs to finance the hidden costs of serious illness, including long-distance phone bills, parking fees, or rent when a parent was unable to work while caring for a child. Having bills paid, he told an Inquirer reporter in 2002, "is stress relief for the family."

Though he had to cope with the deaths of young patients and his work could be emotionally difficult, said his son, David, he was gratified when the hospital's oncology staff received notes from former patients who were graduating from college or having a baby.

Mr. Beele spent his first 12 years at Children's working with children with cystic fibrosis, heart abnormalities, and disabling conditions. He counseled families of children with cleft palates and lips. He organized events for the children, who were often from small towns or rural areas, so they could spend the day with youngsters like themselves.

In 1988, he told an Inquirer reporter that when he had discussions with the parents of children with medical problems, he emphasized that "openness is important. Children are very resilient - they can deal with an awful lot, if they are given a chance. Information is the key. They're never too young for information. Their questions will define what they need to know."

Said Deborah Calvert, supervisor of social workers at Children's: "David has touched the lives of thousands of patients and their families. He was a mentor to those who were lucky enough to work with him."

Mr. Beele grew up in Springfield, Mass. He earned a bachelor's degree from Providence (R.I.) College and was active in the campus movement to open the school to female students. Providence became coed in 1971, the year after he graduated.

Mr. Beele earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in health-care administration from Widener University.

Before joining the staff of Children's, he was a social worker at Children's Cottage in Media, a facility for troubled youth. He met his future wife, Joan Kelly, a nurse, at Children's Cottage. They married in 1979.

Mr. Beele was a talented sketch artist and painter, and an enthusiastic genealogist. He traveled to Belgium and did extensive research to trace his family's roots to the 1600s, his son said.

Though not a runner, he decided to participate in the 2003 half-marathon Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run. He trained intensely and completed the run, with his family cheering him across the finish line, his son said.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Beele is survived by a daughter, Kate, and a sister.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12, at Holy Cross Church, 651 E. Springfield Rd., Springfield, Delaware County. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913

or sdowney@phillynews.com.