go to personal reflection on his impending death by Don Beckord
Obituary of Don Beckord, 1997
Besides helping with the family hatchery business, Don Beckord joined his father and brothers in breeding and showing prize-winning bantams. By the time Don entered Iowa State University, he could have taught poultry courses. Instead, he earned a landscape architecture degree in 1967, with a minor in engineering, and accepted a job offer in Rochester, Minnesota. (But, over the years, he loved raising chickens wherever he could.)
In Rochester, Don met his soul mate, Jean Schroeder, who was there taking special training for nurses. They were married just one year later. Subsequent jobs and a sense of adventure took the couple to homes in Wenatchee, Washington, Anchorage, Alaska and Seattle, Washington, where sons Aaron and Adam went through elementary and high school. After a year in Arkansas, Don and Jean returned to Seattle and improved a modest house into a specially landscaped home with greenhouse and gardens.
Gardening was another interest Don gained from his father, and something they enjoyed discussing often. Gardening also was one of two shared passions with Jean; the other was travel. A highlight, in 1981-82, was a family trip through Europe to North Africa. On the trip, the parents taught curriculum from the Seattle school district, and the sons completed sixth and third grades. The journey through Europe and Greece was made in an old car, and the family camped in tents. Their record was 50 straight nights sleeping on the ground before spending a night in a hostel.
The Beckords hosted eleven Central American exchange students over several years. They have a special bond with an extended family in El Salvador, where they visited twice. For one trip, Don convinced the Nordstrom company to donate about 150 pairs of returned shoes (top-of-the-line Nikes and the like) which he took to a sanctuary for war orphans, along with writing and art materials.
Don is survived by his wife Jean; sons Aaron and Adam; mother Anita Beckord, Longmont, Colorado; brothers Sydney and wife Grace, Storm Lake, Iowa, Bruce and wife Marylou, Boulder, Colorado, John and wife Carol, Iowa City, Iowa, and sister Sara and husband Steve Swails, Iowa City, Iowa. He was preceded in death by his father George Martin Beckord.
Personal Reflection by Don Beckord
It's hard to sit down and write a letter like this ó I've been putting it off for some time. The problem for me has been coming to grips with the inevitability of my death. I realize, however, how fortunate I am to have been forewarned and given the time to write one last love letter to the people who have meant so much to me.
A long ride on a luxurious train is how I'd describe my life over the past fifty two years. And although it's hard to accept the fact my train ticket is about to expire, the memories of all the remarkable and wonderful experiences I've had make it seem as though I've been riding in a deluxe class cabin since day one. Over the years the friends and family who rode on my lifetrain with me have all turned out to be first class passengers as well. And being able to share my sleeping compartment with Jean, Aaron and Adam was without a doubt the highlight of this great adventure and the part Iím the most proud of.
An unusual feature of my lifetrain is it had an extra large baggage car assigned just for my use. And boy did I ever use it! It's now stuffed full of priceless memories of people met and places traveled to over the years. Such memories are the only thing I'll be allowed to take with me when I leave the train, so I made sure I "shopped till I dropped".
For sure, the most valuable possessions in my baggage car are the people memories. I'm smiling and crying at the same time as I recall a lifetime of joy created by the people closest to me.
To Jean, Aaaron and Adam, let me begin by saying if I had to all do over again I wouldn't change a thing. Thanks to you Iíve been able to find true love, happiness and fulfillment. Thanks to you I leave a better person then when I arrived. Thanks to your support I did make it to the top of the mountain and my view of life from there has been truly spectacular.
Jean, if you asked me to recall a memory that stands out from all the others I'd say that's an impossible task. Was it the time we met? Our engagement? Our wedding? The births of our sons? The many trips we took or all the special dreams and moment we shared? They were all terrific. We had a solid, caring relationship based upon a strong foundation of love that only got better and better over the years. The hardest part about all this dying stuff is having to say goodby to you so please excuse me while I bawl my head off. You're such a beautiful and emotionally strong woman I know you'll adjust, move on and continue to grow as a person. Cherish the memories as I always will.
Aaron and Adam, I want you to know how proud I am of you and hope you find the happiness and joy in your lives I achieved in mine. You've both grown up to be the kind of adults every
parent hopes their children will become, and as you move on with your lives please never feel you disappointed me in any way. Many of my dreams have been fulfilled because of the way you are. Life can be very rewarding if you realize love, respect, caring and family are it's most rewarding values. Through your actions you've both shown me you understand this. In our family my torch is now passed on to you and I know it will continue to burn brightly.
Thanks Mom and Dad for the gift of life and for just being you. You always showed me great love and support and I am truly grateful for that. All this death business is, I know, very hard for you. Children just aren't supposed to die before their parents. I only hope you and everyone else can find comfort in the fact I'm totally at peace with the way I lived my life as well as with knowing it is about to end. I love you, always have loved you and truly hope knowing this will give you strength in your time of sorrow. Everyone should realize the grief that often comes after someone dies is a good thing. It wouldn't feel so bad now if life had not been so good while I was alive.
To Sara, Sydi, John and Bruce I want to say having you as siblings has been wonderful. Thanks to you my early years were like a walk down a long fantasy lane filled with an endless array of happy growing up experiences. I learned a lot from each of you and have always enjoyed your support, friendship and love. I'm grateful for all the memories and all you've done for me. I want you to know I truly love you and your families.
To Martin and Agnes I say thanks for all the fun times and helping hands when my family needed you. I truly want you to know I feel very fortunate to have linked up with you and the entire Schroeder family via my marriage to Jean. To all of you I send my love and thanks.
And to my many friends I've made over the years, I must say there are so many of you I'm not about to start naming names because I fear I might fail to mention someone. Besides, you all know who you are and the memories we share will be the bond that connects us forever. I only want to take this last opportunity to say thanks for all the special times we've shared. And P.S. ó I love you too!
One thing I did a lot of and enjoyed doing a lot of during my lifetime is daydreaming. Perhaps this was because I was born under the sign of Aquarius, I'm not just sure why. However, I certainly spent my share of time doing it. It got me into plenty of trouble in grade school where my attention span seemed to register in negative digits! Anyhow, this ability to fantasize upon demand served me well throughout my life as it usually allowed me to convince myself I was I leading a charmed life regardless of any personal problems I may have had. It also allowed me to see and appreciate the good in the people I met along the way and to find pleasure and challenge in whatever I was doing. If I went fishing and the fish weren't biting, I'd enjoy pretending I'd limited out. I tried to learn to play the marimba when I was about 10 years old only to discover my attention span was so short I couldn't learn to read music let alone play such a complicated instrument. In my mind, however, I was always a good marimba player and proud of the little I did accomplish.
Throughout my life I never felt the need to excel in order to feel good about myself. My ability to find fulfillment and live as long as I have has been in great part due to this ability to live a lower stress life and to all the support I've received from Jean. Along the way with her help I've been able to make numerous career and lifestyle changes that added years to my life.
I've had diabetes for over 45 years and although it did eventually do me in, it may very well have saved my life by keeping me from having to serve in the Vietnam War. At the time, if I had been called, I think I would have gone. Hindsight, however, leaves me realizing how lucky I was to have been declared physically unfit for service. The Vietnam War was undoubtedly the most influential event of my generation, and I want you to know I have the utmost respect for those who served and feel a profound sorrow for the families of those who died. I knew people who died in the war and I've never forgotten them.
I've often marveled over how lucky I've been to be a free man living in the freest country in the world during the most eventful 50-year period in the history of mankind. I'm in awe as I look back over all the events and changes I've lived to see. I was about eight years old when the first televisions arrived followed over the years by such things as rock and roll music, jet aircraft, the hoola hoop, Sputnik, the mini-skirt, McDonalds, the computer chip, the pet rock, plastics, the Equal Rights Amendment and the nuclear bomb just to name a few.
World peace has not been accomplished during my lifetime and I'm sorry my generation has not been able to achieve it for the sake of my own children. Yet, I'm encouraged it seems to remain a goal of a majority of mankind. During my lifetime I had a chance to travel to many countries and everywhere I went I met good people who cared about their fellow man. This finding alone is enough to give me hope for future generations and a trust in the belief goodwill will eventually triumph. I don't want to leave without encouraging my family and friends to believe things can get better and to urge you to keep trying in your own way to do what you can to make the world a better place for everyone.
Well, I guess I've said about all I have to say and, besides, as we approach the pearly gates I can feel my lifetrain starting to come to a halt. Guess they're reminding me my ticket to ride is about to expire. The train only stops here for a very brief moment so there won't be a lot of time for tears. Once I exit, that will be it for me. The train will then move on. You should be aware the tracks up ahead will at times be quite smooth and at other times perhaps quite rough. But if you all just support each other and keep in mind all the good memories, you'll get through just fine. I can say this with certainty since I personally received so much strength from the love and support of my family and friends during my lifetime.
Now, if you'll all look out the window as we make our approach you'll see they've arranged for a 99-piece marimba band to play "When the saints come marching in" as I pass through the pearly gates. I'm sure I'm going to get along just fine here!
I've got important things to do now so when the lifetrain returns and one of you exits, there will be a 100-piece marimba band there to greet you. That will be me, the guy with the big smile in the back row playing his heart out just for you. So when it's your turn to pass through the gates you just march right back there and give me a big hug!
Until then ó goodbye and all my love to each and every one of you.
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