Charles Beckmann Jr.
Jan 16th 1921 - Jan 8th 2012
Charles Henry Beckmann Jr was born January 16, 1921 to Charles Henry Beckmann and Nellie Dubridge Beckmann at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the youngest of 3 children: Bernadine born February 4, 1916 and Robert born February 21, 1919. He grew-up at 927 Pine Ave on the northwest side of the city.
Charles began school at Stocking School for grades kindergarten through 4th, but then transferred to St James for grades 5-9. He was an altar boy for 5 years. His dad was an avid rabbit and squirrel hunter and always kept beagles. Peggy, a small skinny female beagle, was a favorite of his growing –up. He enjoyed softball and at 13 began playing baseball. He was a left-handed pitcher on the Lincoln Park team that won the City Championship in 1936.
Charles’s 10th-12th grade years were spent at Catholic Central from which he graduated Valedictorian in 1938. At that time the boys and girls did not attend classes together. He never missed school nor was late for school in 9 years. He rode his bicycle or walked to school only taking the bus in bad weather for 5 cents. He earned money by pedaling the Grand Rapids Press starting in 9th grade and continuing through his 2nd year in college.
In 1938 Charles began college at Catholic Community College earning an Associate’s Degree with an English major and minors in American History and Economics. In 1940 the Community College became Aquinas College, now a 4-year school. He was the sole recipient of the Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1942 because 4 years of Latin was required for the degree. The other graduates received Bachelor of Science degrees. He was editor of the Aquinas Herald for 2 ½ years. Along the way he seriously considered the priesthood, but could not afford the seminary.
After graduating Charles worked on the road for Procter and Gamble distributing coupons for discounts in Michigan and Illinois. In August of 1942 he was drafted and in September reported to Fort Custard in Battle Creek where he was sworn into the U.S. Army. He was then transferred to Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, New York and shortly thereafter to Camp Kilmer in New Brunswick, New Jersey until October of 1943. While in New York he studied Spanish at City College, but would be the first to admit he never really was successful with other languages. After 1 semester he was sent to Camp Sheraton in Rockford, Illinois for basic training.
For three months Charles received medical training at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. From there he was stationed at Camp Reynolds in Pennsylvania and on to Camp Shanks in Younkers, New York. In June of 1944 he boarded the British ship, Athione Castle for Liverpool and found himself in England two weeks later. He was assigned to Company D1308 Engineers as a surgical medical technician. They landed in France that summer to work on bombed roads and bridges. In January of ’45 he was sent to Nice, France to open a Rest and Recreation Center for American soldiers. His life took a major change when he met Charlotte Blanche Raiteri and her sisters on the beach. Little did he know at that time that Charlotte would become his wife and mother of his children. When the war ended he set sail through the Panama Canal for Okinawa. By November of 1945 he had enough points to be discharged and was discharged form camp McCoy in Wisconsin returning home in January of 1946.
Charles returned to Aquinas taking teaching courses and coaching baseball. He even served one semester as Athletic Director. Throughout this time he corresponded with Charlotte. Charles worked in the shipping department at R.C.Allen. He began Law School at the University of Michigan, but dropped out shortly after starting in order to get tuition refunded when he realized Charlotte was arriving sooner than anticipated. They were married at St James Church on February 18th, 1947 and honeymooned in Chicago. For 1 year Charles taught English and History along with coaching football, boy’s and girls’ basketball and baseball at Sand Lake High School. Bernard Allen Beckmann was born December 17th, 1947. Charles then worked at Central Trade Plant. David Louis Beckmann was born April 6th, 1949.
In June of 1950 Charles began working at Steelcase where he remained until his retirement in 1980. In 1952 he and Charlotte built a house at 1679 Hillmount NW where he lived with Charlotte until she died in September of 2003 and then there alone until January of 2007. A daughter Jeanne was born in March of 1952, but died unexpectedly 3 months later. Kathy Anne was born June 29th, 1953. He was a devoted father and worked hard to send his children to West Catholic and college. He never missed mass and made certain his children were there in the pew with him weekly. After mass in the summer he packed up the car and with Charlotte’s picnic lunch the family went to the beach in Muskegon. Even Hans the dashound went along. His love of dogs was evident in his care and devotion to Miquette, the Miniature Schnauzer who adored him.
Charles was a very active member of the American Electroplater’s Society serving as an officer for several years. He loved to travel and always took his family on memorable trips through Canada and out East. He and Charlotte traveled to Europe numerous times. 5 years in a row they celebrated Oktoberfest in Munich. In 1984 he attended the Olympics in Sarajevo. They took numerous bus trips throughout the United States and attended 10 reunions of the 1308 Engineers. He volunteered his time at two schools in Wyoming to help with kindergarteners. He was an avid reader and an avid gardener. He was the first recipient of the “Best Use of Annuals” award sponsored by the Grand Rapids Press and Michigan State Horticultural School.
Charles missed Charlotte very much after her death. He remained close to her sisters, Loulette and Yolande who were with Charlotte when they met so very long ago. Although he remained in the house until a fall sent him to the Veteran’s Home, he was lonely. He never lost his sense of humor or love of singing. He would make up songs to fit the occasion. In February of 2011 he moved to St Ann’s Home and then to Yorkshire Manor. Wherever he was he was loved and appreciated for the intelligent, kind, generous man he was.
Charles passed away on Sunday evening, January 8, 2012 following complications of dementia. He was a loving and dedicated brother, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and a friend to all who knew him. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered.
Mr. Charles H. Beckmann Jr., aged 90 of Grand Rapids, passed away on Sunday evening, January 8, 2012 at Yorkshire Manor. He was preceded in death by his wife, Charlotte in 2003, his daughter, Jeannie Beckmann, son David Beckmann his brother, Robert Beckmann and his sister, Bernadine (Orville) Miller. He is survived by his children, Bernard and Judy Beckmann, Kathy and Donald Avey; his grandchildren, Adrian Beckmann, Paul Avey, Laura Avey, Eric (Rhonda) Beckmann, Scott (Beth) Beckmann, Stacey Beckmann and Robert Beckmann; his great grandchildren, Kaleb, Gavin, McKenna and Jack Beckmann; his daughter-in-law, Millie Bonazzoli; sisters-in-law, Loulette Bieluch and Yolande Murphy, both of Jersey City, New Jersey; other nieces, nephews and many friends. Charles was a lifetime member of St. James Catholic Church where the Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, January 20, at 11:00 AM. Relatives and friends may meet his family on Thursday January 19 from 7:00 – 9:00 PM, with the rosary prayed at 7:00 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Visitation will also be held at the church one hour prior to Mass on Friday. Contributions in his memory may be made to St. James Church or Aquinas College. To read more about Charles’s life, to sign his guest book and to leave your own memory of him, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com.