Sunday, October 5, 2008

This was a real nice clambake

There are too few opportunities to see old friends from school. So it was a special treat to visit for a few hours recently with Ron and Jane Becker – teachers at Chadron High School in the late 1950s. They were spending a week at a resort in the northern Black Hills and invited Karen and me to join them one afternoon. We did so with great delight.

Students from that era will remember Ron Becker as the band and choir director. Jane Becker taught English and speech at CHS.

I have vivid memories of two performances produced by the Beckers. First was James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones. The second was particularly memorable, because it involved so many students – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel! Like so many things in life, the enormous effort put into these projects paid off with some real fun and great pride in being a part of such challenging productions.

Both Ron and Jane grew up in Lincoln and met at the university. As teachers, they were popular with the students – but they were no pushovers. They expected students to apply themselves, which didn’t mean we couldn’t and didn’t have fun along the way! 1960 at Chadron was Jane's last teaching job, since the Beckers adopted a little boy, Randy, and they moved to Scottsluff.

It was nearly three decades later that I had the good fortune to cross paths again with the Beckers. It was the late 1980s in Sioux Falls, when Ron and I conspired to have members of the Sioux Empire Arts Council, which he headed, man the telephones during an on-air pledge drive for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. I was Deputy Director of the South Dakota Network in those days. With only a little coaxing on my part, Ron also agreed to serve on the Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting Board of Directors.

His association with SDPB transcended my eight years with the network. In addition to his many years of service in support of SDPB, Ron also served on the Board of Directors for America’s Public Television Stations (APTS), where he gained the admiration and respect of lay and professional public broadcasting people all across the country. He and I crossed paths at many public television meetings, as shown in the photo below, taken at a Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C., probably in about 1999. That's Ron on the right.

Ron was as a senior administrator for the Sioux Falls Independent School District until he retired in 1994, although he agreed to return for a couple of administrative assignments. He finally hung it up in 1999. Ron also traveled extensively overseas evaluating the educational programs in schools operated by the Department of Defense for military dependents.

Now both retired, the Beckers live in Sioux Falls and continue to be active in the community, and they're able to spend considerable visiting their daughter Brenda and family in Sioux Falls and son Randy and family in Lincoln. The Beckers have four grandchildren.