“Hit ‘em where they ain’t” a tribute to my Granddad
Anticipating where your opponent was and going the other way was Granddad’s perennial advice. It applied to tennis, baseball, and certainly business where he valued hard work and grit above all else. My granddad ran his own electronics service business for 30+ years, crouching behind neighbors TVs and fixing tubes. His garage was packed full of wires, set top boxes, antennae, bulbs and apoxy, the fix for anything. I remember his army green work van that was empty in the back except for raggedy carpet with some oil stains. He drove it for almost his entire tenure.
His “cruising” conversion van was a deep sea blue with plush captain’s chairs, faux wood tables for playing cards and holding sodas we weren’t supposed to drink; the radio always played books on tape or Jack Buck calling the Cardinals game. When the paint chipped, he used house paint that slightly matched to patch it. He drove us to Chicago, Kansas City, and Indianapolis — anywhere within a 6 hour drive- for summer adventures. We’d jam bologna and American cheese sandwiches into the red cooler along with wavy Lays, and fresh fruit for picnics at rest stops along the way. As kids, my cousins and I were big on prank calling from pay phones. For some reason we thought it was cool to call 1–800-jenny Craig and hang up. I have no idea why. When granddad caught us, he’d remind us “No Shenanigans! Mrs Burhorst will get you!” Somehow the thought of a large German woman, whom we’d never met, “getting us” was enough of a threat to deter our poor behavior.
Tending to his monstrous tomatoes and scarlet roses is where we’d find him most summer days. I’m lucky to have grown up within a 10 min drive of my grandparents seeing them for birthdays, holidays, sleep overs, or just a stop in after church on sundays. Granddad first introduced me to ball sports through balloon ball — roll up some old newspaper; wrap a bunch of duct tape around it; blow up a balloon and go to town. We had hours of entertainment on about $.15 worth of materials. I shutter to think of how much money I’ve given to Melissa and Doug. I know better. Balloon ball was the foundation for everything I played — softball, tennis, golf, even volleyball. Granddad passed on his love and skill through simple games.
One year I bought a book for Granddad for his birthday — the ultimate mistake. Why would I waste my money on something we can all get for “free”? One of Granddad’s favorite places was the St Louis County Library. Despite never finishing college, he educated himself entirely for free at the library, voraciously reading fiction and non-fiction. Politics were always top of mind — ”Boss”, “All the King’s Men”, presidential biographies were required reading. Every time we take our children to the library to get their weekly books, I remember him saying to me that no one could take away my education. Education, above all else, would help me succeed.
“How’s that Prius treating you?” When we moved to the west coast, Granddad was fascinated by our hybrid car choice. He worried that we’d get stuck with a hefty bill if the battery ever died, so he reminded us to get it checked frequently. He was proud that he could help us get a good deal on it as he was a porter for Enterprise in his retirement. Friends and family discount — GTM (get the money).
As we head down 55 from Chicago to St. Louis this weekend, I’m thinking of the road trips, of all the times he came to my tennis matches, of the late afternoons riding bikes and hanging out on the back porch, of bocce ball and horse races in Sun City, of learning “Three Blind Mice” on an out of tune baby grand in a damp basement, of the tickle monster, of random German words that I don’t think we’re actually German, of tales of old ball players and Cardinals history, of the Great Swami and Charades, of all the baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and special dances at deb balls, of his laughter and biting wit, of fixing anything, of the stoic foil to family drama.
I will miss you, Granddad. I’m just so lucky to have had you for 36 years.
Beck, John Henry (Jack). Born September 11, 1932. Fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church, Thursday, June 8, 2017. Devoted husband for 63 years of Julie (Olivastro) Beck; beloved father and father-in-law of Donna Beck (Jerry) Smith, Mark G. (Patti) Beck, DDS, the late Michael G. (Karen) Beck, MaryKay (David French) Beck-French, and Julie Beck (Don) Hennon. Loving grandfather of Elizabeth Smith (Michael) Brigham, Lauren Beck (Bryan) Kerwin, Lesley Beck (Jeff) Laughlin, John (Ann) Beck, Michael (Jen) Beck, Ryan French (Kelsey Hinds), Paul (Jodi) Beck, Stephen Beck, Elaine Beck (Mike) Reinberg, Peter Smith, Stephanie French (Jacob) Maret, Colleen Beck (Matt) Davis, Megan Hennon, Kathryn Hennon, and Daniel Hennon; step-grandfather of Benjamin (Bethany) Smith; and great-grandfather of 15. Dear brother and brother-in-law of Elsie Beck (late Leo) Glickert, the late Robert E. Beck and Mae Olivastro (Ray) Skubiz. Uncle, cousin and friend to many. Jack was preceded in death by his parents, Elizabeth Elsie (Meyer) Beck and John Henry Beck as well as his aunt Bertha (Meyer) DuCarmont and uncle Cornelius DuCarmont, his guardians after his parents died.
Born and reared in University City, MO, Jack attended CBC High School and St. Louis University School of Commerce. Jack often quoted Willie Keller’s sage advice, “hit ‘em where they ain’t,” embracing that mantra as a Missouri State badminton champion, on the baseball field, and on golf courses throughout Missouri and Arizona. Jack infused his love of learning, history and politics in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, encouraging them to expand their horizons in the stacks of the St. Louis County Library. Jack was a self-taught piano player, and the walls of his home always emanated Rodgers and Hammerstein’s reprises or tunes he played by ear on his baby grand. While he enjoyed few indulgences, he never passed up fried chicken from Hodaks, or an ice-cold Budweiser alongside Jack Buck bringing home a winner with the Cardinals on KMOX.
During his 30-plus-year career, Jack owned an electronics sales and service business in south St. Louis. In his retirement, Jack split his time between Des Peres, MO, and his beloved Sun City, AZ, where he played golf and bocce regularly for the past 30 winters.