Emil Frederick Beck, 96 years old, died on December 30, 2020. A Memorial Service celebrating the life of Emil F. Beck will be held at 11:00 AM, Saturday, September 4, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church, 1401 N. Sam Houston, Odessa, TX with Pastor Cheryl Homsher officiating.
Emil F. Beck was born on May 27, 1924 to Hertha Clara (Willig) and Emil Frederick Beck II in Houston, Texas, where his father was seeking medical treatment. After returning home to San Angelo, Texas, when Emil was 10-weeks old, his father, a baker, died. After his death, Emil’s mother moved with Emil and his 21-month-old sister to live with his maternal grandparents in Temple, Texas. When Emil was 9-years old, after the death of his grandfather during the Great Depression, Emil’s mother moved her family back to San Angelo to be near Emil’s paternal grandparents and other extended Beck family members.
Emil started working as a 5 or 6-year-old child as he grew up in Temple and San Angelo. He did a wide variety of part-time jobs to raise money for his own needs and to help contribute toward expenses of his family. His first job was selling Kormel Korn on a Temple street corner; he worked as a document delivery boy for an attorney, a shoe shine boy, a sheep-ranch helper, and a grocery store package boy. He strung tennis rackets, caddied for golf, and sold fireworks, etc., until he graduated from San Angelo Central High School in 1941. He worked for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) during the Depression and also later helped construct Goodfellow Air Base in 1940. During Emil’s childhood, he enjoyed many friendships and the loving support of both of his parents’ extended families. He also enjoyed educational, cultural, scouting, religious, travel, and sporting experiences while growing up during these years.
After high school, Emil received a one-year scholarship to attend San Angelo Junior College. The following year he worked at San Angelo Telephone Company installing line while taking an 8-hour Texas Tech College extension course on Radio Engineering before he enlisted into the Signal Corp of the U. S. Army in May 29, 1943. Before completing his training, he was promoted to the Army Air Corp where he earned 16 hours of college credits as part of his training for Navigator. Destiny intervened when a Presidential Order dismissed 36,000 Air Corp cadets. His group was transferred to the new 65th Infantry Division of the Army at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where he began training in the Infantry. It was here that he would meet his future wife, Norma Dale Reagan, at a Camp Shelby dance. Dale had recently moved with her family from Houston, Texas, to Laurel, which was about 35 miles away from Camp Shelby.
On December 31, 1944. Emil went to Europe with the 65th Division (Hq 3, 259) as a radio repair specialist to help fight against Hitler’s Axis Forces. After the war ended on May 8, 1945, he remained in Europe for post war missions and service, and he was transferred to the 9th Division by August 1, 1945. He mustered out as Sergeant Technician third grade, returning home to San Angelo April 1946.
Emil soon went to work at the San Angelo Telephone Company in a new capacity at the customer complaint switchboard. Within a short time, he visited Dale Reagan in Laurel, Mississippi, where they became engaged. They agreed to compete for and won the opportunity to be married on ABC’s popular national radio program, The Bride and Groom Show, in Hollywood, California, on September 29, 1947, to an audience of 30,000,000 people. After their marriage, Emil and Dale moved to Lubbock in January, 1948, where he completed his B.B.A. in accounting at Texas Tech while Dale worked as a secretary. Emil also played on the Varsity Texas Tech Tennis Team during his last year in Lubbock. He was proud to have helped Texas Tech win the Border Conference in Tennis during the spring of 1950, before his graduation that semester.
After Emil’s graduation, he and Dale moved to Big Spring for his first job as an accountant for Texas Electric Service. Shortly thereafter in the summer of 1950, Frank Spaulding hired Emil to work as an accountant at his real estate company, the Spaulding Company. Emil discovered in this position that he wanted his life work to be connected to the real estate profession. After 3-1/2 years, Emil accepted a position working for Jim Key at Key Investment Company (a mortgage company) and at Key, Rhodes and Jenkins (a real estate and insurance firm). In 1958, Emil was hired as founding Manager of the newly chartered First Savings and Loan Association of Odessa. He worked there as Manager, Executive VP, and later as President until October, 1985. After leaving First Savings and Loan of Odessa, Emil worked for the State of Texas Savings and Loan Department in Austin, supervising unhealthy savings and loans companies in Lubbock, San Angelo and Midland until October, 1988. Emil and his wife Dale maintained friendships and enjoyed reunions at annual Christmas parties with former colleagues at First Savings & Loan for the rest of their lives.
Emil was active in civic and business organizations after moving to Odessa. He became an active member of the Jaycees where he participated in Christmas tree sales, Fourth of July parade float building activities, city firework displays, carnival midways, Miss West Texas Pageants, and other nonprofit fund-raising projects. Emil was President of the Jaycees in 1955 and was awarded Outstanding Young Man of 1956. From 1955-1965, he served for 10 years on the City Planning Board for Odessa and for 2 years as Board Chairman. Emil served in the Odessa Chamber of Commerce and was Chamber President in 1965. He became President of the Ector County United Fund in 1967. Emil was a member of the Odessa Board of Realtors (President in 1970), President of the Better Business Bureau, and BBB Board of Directors member. He served on the Community Advisory Counsel of the Small Business Administration. Emil was a member of the Insurance Commission of the Texas Savings and Loan League and was a Director of the Texas Savings & Loan League from 1972-1975.
Emil helped to raise money for the establishment of The Presidential Library, The Globe Theatre, the Permian Basin Rehabilitation Center, the YMCA and other civic projects. He supported public projects such as the Colorado River Municipal Water District (CRMWD) to provide enough water from the Colorado River for Odessa’s future growth. Emil worked to bring UTPB to Odessa to establish a four-year university for the residents of Ector, Midland and surrounding counties. Emil was a member of the Lions Club and often sold refreshments at Permian High School games for fundraisers. He was an active member of the Odessa Meteoritical Society, and he worked as chairman of the finance committee for the museum project helping to raise money to build an on-site meteor crater museum and Odessa tourist attraction. Emil was active in the Gem and Mineral Club of Midland, serving one year as President and Show Chairman. In Emil’s final decade of life, until the age of 95, he delivered meals for Meals on Wheels.
Emil loved physical activity and sports and working with his hands most of his life. He enjoyed fishing, bowling, ping pong, backpacking, playing tennis until his sixties, and golf. Emil loved playing volleyball at the YMCA; he was an avid washer pitcher at reunions and church camp, and at 91-years old, Emil was able to play 18 holes of golf in 100-degree Texas heat. At 94-years old, he lifted weights, bicycled and walked on a treadmill three days per week in the gym on a schedule that one gym employee could set his watch to. Emil enjoyed rock hunting in western states to find stones that he could cut, polish and use to make bolas and other jewelry, as well as intarsia art objects. After his retirement, Emil started baking cakes for reunions and birthdays of friends and loved ones.
During the 1990’s until a few years ago, Emil started attending reunions of veterans of the 65th Infantry Division of the Army, who had served in Europe during World War II. He and his wife Dale, his mother-in-law Emma Reagan, his four children, and several of his grandchildren attended various reunions of the 65th Infantry Division Association in different locations around the country and in Europe. He made many enduring friendships with the other veterans and their family members who attended these gatherings. Emil hosted one of the 65th Division mini-reunions in Odessa in February, 2008, which was proclaimed by a number of the attendees from around the country that Odessa was one of their best reunions ever (after a banquet meal by the Chuck Wagon Gang and entertainment by the Satin Strings, attending a performance of Fledermaus at The Globe Theatre, going on tours to the Odessa Meteor Crater, The Sand Hills State Park, the Presidential Museum, the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Midland, and the Stonehenge replica at UTPB). In 2009, Emil served as the 65th Infantry Division Association President when they went to West Point, New York.
In May 2009, Emil and two of his children retraced his WWII steps in Europe with other members of the 65th Infantry Division Association. He was present to help commemorate the new plaque installed at Mauthausen outside of Linz, Austria, in recognition of the U. S. Army 65th Division and the 131st Evacuation Hospital, which provided humanitarian services for the Mauthausen concentration camp survivors after the time of their liberation in early May, 1945. Emil was also honored to travel with the Texas Permian Basin Honor Flight to visit Washington, D.C, as a World War II veteran in September 2014.
Emil believed in using one’s initiative to do what needed to be done, in being honest and honoring one’s word, making a plan and sticking to it, being on-time, taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family, serving one’s community and country. He was a “go-getter” and learned through his early life experiences to take advantage of opportunities when they came his way. Emil was by nature industrious, hard-working, disciplined, deliberate in his words and actions, practical, hospitable, and generous. He had a discerning mind and a kind, tender heart toward others. He was said by a friend to be “a great connector of all kinds of things.” Emil was an eternal optimist, and he refused to listen to naysayers when he had a vision and a mission. He didn’t gossip. He was creative, mindful, and a “Force” until his last days.
Emil made friends readily wherever he went throughout his life. He never met a stranger and sometimes ran into friends in other states or countries that he knew from other places or times. He used his time wisely and enjoyed being productive and of service to others. He was adventurous and loved to travel and explore, learning about other places, events, things, and meeting new people. He loved to socialize and enjoyed meeting with friends early in the morning for coffee and breakfast at Whataburger on 8th Street--for decades. He absolutely loved, promoted, and was proud of Odessa, not wanting to live anywhere else than in his town.
Emil was a lifelong follower of the Presbyterian faith, and he was a faithful member of the First Presbyterian Church of Odessa from 1950 until his death. He served in many capacities and actively supported the activities, beliefs, service, work, and the mission of his church as long as he was able. The teachings of his religion helped shape his life and became part of him. He loved the members of his church family, as he did his kinfolk and friends, his community, and his country. His experiences and faith caused him to believe he had Guardian Angels helping him throughout his life.
According to Emil’s autobiography, “Growing Up West of the 100th Meridian,” published in 2003, he wrote: “If you measure success in values other than material wealth, I consider myself to be extremely successful. My family heritage, my wonderful childhood, my lovely wife, our marriage, our four wonderful children, our eleven wonderful grandchildren, all have contributed to this success. I am wealthy beyond most men like myself could ever dream. In my time on this earth, I have tried to make it a little better than the way I found it.”
Emil was a beloved, loyal, and loving son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, father, uncle, grandfather, and friend, who loved to help others and causes he believed in.
Emil was preceded in death by his wife Norma Dale Beck (deceased on October 16, 2018); by his sister Eloise Fredda Hodapp and her husband Harold Hodapp; by his mother and father Hertha Clara (Willig) and Emil Frederick Beck II; by his mother- and father-in-law Emma Hattie (Gilliam) and Martin Reagan; by his aunt Alma Emelia Beck (ByeBye); by his maternal grandparents Catharine (Grohmann) and Hermann Willig; and by his paternal grandparents Therese Rose (Arhelger) and Emil Frederick Beck (Fred Beck).
Emil is survived by his four children and their spouses: Karen Ayyad, Janine and husband Steve Briley, Reagan and wife Tracy Beck, and Leslie and husband Roger Watkins; by his eleven grandchildren and their spouses, by one great grandson, by three step-grandchildren, by six step-great grandchildren, and by one step-great-great granddaughter: Nasser Ayyad; Rosa Ayyad; Nura Ayyad; Julie Briley and husband Saurabh Chaugule; John Briley and wife Rachel Briley and their son Sawyer Briley; Will Briley; Emily Beck and husband Jeremy Barras; Natalie Beck; Jocynda Sciretta and her three children Keagan Sciretta, Koehn Rieken, and Elijah Bruce, plus Keagan’s daughter Paisleigh Sciretta; Leann Wauson and husband Cody Wauson and their daughter Hattie Wauson; Erin Vaca and husband Hermes Vaca, plus Hermes’ children Celeste and Matthew Vaca; Andrew Watkins and wife Asma Ajroudi; Brian Watkins and wife Jamie Park; Catherine Watkins; and by numerous beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, and extended family members.
The family of Emil Beck would like to thank Jan Gilbert and Orji Dike, the audiology and healthcare teams at the VA Outpatient Clinics in Odessa and Ft. Worth, Texas, as well as dear friends in Odessa, Arlington, and at First Presbyterian Church of Odessa for their loving support, many kindnesses, and friendship offered to Emil and his family. Donations in Emil’s honor can be made to First Presbyterian Church of Odessa at 1401 N. Sam Houston Ave., Odessa, TX 79761 or to one’s choice of charity.