Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grandview Memorializes Mayor

By Andrea Wood
We all knew him as Mayor. As Chief. But at the Memorial Event on Sunday, August 29th to honor Bob Beckers’ life, we heard from those who knew his softer sides--the loving husband, the class clown, the insightful leader who never saw himself as above others, and the man who felt a deep desire to serve his community.
“When Bob was made the Grandview Police Chief in 1991, he made law enforcement fun,” recalled current Police Chief Larry Dickey to a standing-room only crowd. “When he retired in 2005, we begged him not to do it. Then, three months later, he was back as Mayor and made politics fun.”
Dickey and other officers shared numerous stories about how Beckers incorporated a sense of humor into his work at the city, including showing up at a Board of Aldermen meeting dressed as a “hobo begging for money for the police department” and initiating a “wildest tie” contest. 
Still, he took keeping Grandview citizens safe very seriously. During his tenure, Beckers won the Clarence M. Kelley award, and accepted the national Webber Seavy award for quality law enforcement on behalf of the city.
As Mayor, Beckers always made a point to try to include youth in the city’s events.
Kraig Briggs, the city’s facility services manager, recalled that one of his first tasks for the mayor was to build a larger switch box for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, so that he could have as many kids help him flip the switch as possible.
“He had an outside layer--his tough cop exterior--that he’d let everyone see,” Briggs said. “But my best memories of him were his attempts not to show off his soft side.”
Briggs shared several stories about sitting around Beckers’ kitchen table--an old table that had belonged to his parents--and talking about life, his dear wife Patti, and how things were going in Grandview.
In his last days, Briggs said the Mayor was incredibly proud of the city’s new sprayground in John Anderson Park, and would always ask whether kids were enjoying it.
“I’m going to miss sitting around that old table with Bob and his cat,” Briggs said, his voice thick with emotion. “I want to plant a tree in Bob’s honor--a Pin Oak, because he loved Pin Oaks--at the spray park.”
City Clerk Becky Schimmel recalled her ongoing joke with Beckers, calling him the “Most Honorable One.”
“But as the years went by, I realized that it wasn’t really a joke anymore.”
She read a line from the Mayor’s favorite poem:
“So when your eulogy’s being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say, about how you spent your dash?”
“I can say with certainty,” Schimmel said, “if there is one word to describe how he spent his dash, that word would be ‘Honorable.’”
A close friend told those gathered that Bob cared greatly for the City of Grandview, and truly wanted to give back, and to serve. He explained Beckers’ first fight with cancer and how it compared with his final battle with the disease.
“There’s fear, and there’s love. With Bob’s first bout with cancer, he feared losing his voice...but God gave him more time and he wanted to make the best of it.
“This second bout with cancer, I noticed a difference. It was all about love. He understood that we have a soul inside a body that is programmed to self-destruct. He was at peace with it.”
Some friends had travelled from Minneapolis, where Beckers is from originally, to take part in the celebration of his life. Among them were the “Fun in the Sun” group of friends that got together annually to enjoy themselves.
“Our motto was, ‘We didn’t do it, no one saw it, and you can’t prove it.’” Said one of Beckers’ closest friends, recalling pranks and good times they shared.
Friends, family, and current and former city employees and elected officials shared stories of the Mayor, who had touched the lives of everyone in the room.
There were many laughs, and a number of tears.
A prayer by Rev. Elijah Clark with Mount Sinai Baptist Church brought silence to the crowd.
Then, a final tribute came from the President of the Board of Aldermen, Steve Dennis. He reflected on the fact that both he and the Mayor are proud to be a part of the U.S. Navy, in which Beckers served from 1962-1966.
Dressed in his full Navy attire, Dennis saluted the flag which had been presented to Patti at Bob’s funeral last week. He then played an emotional version of Taps, in honor of the man who served his nation and his community throughout his 65 years.
“We’ll miss you...God Bless...”

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