Last week I flew back to Minnesota to be with family and honor the life of my godfather – my Uncle Bob. Robert C. Becklin was the eldest of 7 children. Uncle Bob was a recognized political figure and businessman in and around my hometown of Cambridge. He and Aunt Joyce, his wife of 64 years, were my godparents which is a role that is important and hopefully never used. That’s me with them on my confirmation day so I was about 14; note that this was my first “purple phase” with my purple dress and shoes! While Uncle Bob’s obituary tells the facts of his life, it doesn’t capture the person. Going through the week, and hearing the stories of a man who was always there for me, I realized that I learned a lot from him.
- Accept Your Role With Grace Uncle Bob’s ultimate role was as the patriarch of the family. The Becklin’s are no normal family! I remember that there were 14 Becklin’s in the phone book and everyone in Cambridge seemed to know the family structure better than I did. My Grandpa and Grandma had 6 boys and 1 girl. I do not mean to discount Aunt Eileen, the only girl, but everyone always spoke about the “Becklin Boys”. The boys walk alike, they talk alike, but each one is intelligent and interesting in their own way. Bob was the oldest and probably the most extroverted. Whenever there was an issue in the family, people would say “Let’s run that by Bob. ” This seemed to be how most business people worked with him too; he listened, he asked questions and then decided to support you or not.
- Act like Superman! I knew Uncle Bob was one of the founders of the charcoal plant. I always thought that it was a terrible dirty place; I remember Grandma’s shower after the boys would clean up after work – it was so disgusting. But, when the charcoal plant had a fire, Uncle Bob ran into the office and picked up the company safe, and carried it to safety. Later, someone weighed the safe and it weighed over 300 lbs! Why do I remember this? To me, Uncle Bob was Superman! That was just the beginning of his super powers. As health issues kept him tied to an oxygen tank, most people would give up. He kept a strict exercise regime, a smile on his face and positive spirit in spite of issues that would have stopped many people.
- Be Present After my return to Cambridge in high school, I saw Uncle Bob more frequently. He was an active community member and the president of the local bank. I remember going into the bank where he would always acknowledge me. It seemed that he was always standing, in his suit, making sure everyone was taken care of. When I walked in, it didn’t matter if he was talking to someone, he always nodded and smiled. I suspect that he was that way with most of the community business people too!
- Let Others Shine This was most evident in the way he loved and respected his wife, Joyce. Aunt Joyce was a strong and independent woman. In spite of living in a time where her job was “wife and supporter”, no one would ever think that Joyce played second fiddle to anyone. She is slightly crazy, always fun and Bob always let her be “Joyce” and never tried to make her something else.
- Be a Changer of the World Uncle Bob served in the Minnesota House of Representative for 10 years helping pass many important bills. He recruited his little brother (my Dad) to step into his shoes when he stepped down. But I remember many years later when he was retired and talking about his “coffee club”. I asked “What do you talk about?” He said “We solve all the world’s problems”. That’s what he loved and the company he kept. No problem was too trivial or too big.
Thank you Uncle Bob for being part of my life!