Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dave Beck - it was an honor and pleasure to know him

My deepest sympathies go to Terri and the whole family.  Their loss is also felt by neighbors and the whole Plainfield community.  For Dave was a man who understood the importance of community and put himself completely into the betterment of the public schools and local government.  Family obligation will not permit me to be a part of the celebration of Dave's life Sunday at the Netherwood Bar and Grill but I want to share my memories of Dave through my blog.

Lois and I met Dave and Terri at Cook School in the mid 1980's.  Our daughter was starting kindergarten there and we wanted to get involved in the parent- teacher organization.  Everyone said "speak with Dave".  Dave and Terri had a leadership role at the school and they generously shared their knowledge of school doings with us.  It was obvious that Dave was a committed and savvy Cook School parent organizer. 

It was not long before Dave's children moved on to Plainfield middle school and Dave became a member of the Plainfield Board of Education.   The Board was deeply divided at that time and many people felt that the Board's conflicts caused a revolving door of Superintendents.  At one point I recall counting 7 Superintendents in 10 years.  No wonder Plainfield schools were not providing a good educational program to our children.  The way Dave dealt with this challenge has been an example for me to as I followed in his footsteps later on.  He did not get sucked into the public arguments at Board meetings. He was a voice of reason, offering practical solutions while others engaged in finger pointing.  The two Board factions ultimately battled over the future of then Superintendent Annette Kearney and while Dave was on the side that won, he always kept lines of communication open with the Board members he disagreed with. Few others did.

Our terms on the Board of Education did not overlap but I took advice from Dave on numerous occasions.  When Dr Kearney stepped down as Superintendent, there was still a split Board and we had to do a national search for a qualified candidate.  Dave advised that, during the search, the Board of Ed have most of its arguments in private in order to not scare away the best candidates.  This we did and were able to attract and recruit Dr Larry Leverett.

Dave was a member of the New Democrats and held the 2nd ward - 10th district male committee member seat for many years.  He was part of the team that helped elect Al McWilliams as mayor.  He helped me with my elections as well and gave generously of his time to all New Democrat candidates.  McWilliams appointed him as a PMUA commissioner early in the life of the PMUA and he served as we all expected - with integrity and responsibility.  He was an independent thinker, not a rubber stamp.  I wish he  was a commissioner over the last few years when the PMUA lost sight of its direction and intended purpose.

Dave was a great neighbor, a family man and a great partner in life for Terri.  I remember how Dave got behind Terri's downtown venture into the book-selling business, how he graciously accepted boxes of books from Lois and me even though he had a whole basement of books to sort through at Terri's orders!

Lois and I will sorely miss Dave.  I know there are a lot of people around town, around Plainfield, who feel as we do.    

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