Charles D. BECK

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BECK, Charles D. Our family and our country have lost one of the best of what has been called "The Greatest Generation" with the passing of Charles D. Beck on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. Born on May 28, 1919, in Charlie, TX to Dave and Ruth Beck, he grew up during the Depression on a dirt farm and in the oil fields of northwest Texas and Oklahoma. After high school graduation from Oklaunion High School, Texas, he attended John Tarleton Junior College and then Texas A & M. In 1940 he was accepted into the Army Air Corp flying school. He received his pilot's wings at Stockton, CA in May 1941. A few weeks later, he shipped out from San Francisco to the Philippines Islands where he was assigned to the 2nd Observation Squadron at Nichols Field. On December 8, the Japanese attacked the Philippines, destroying most of the U.S. aircraft on the ground. After the initial attack, Charles and his friend, Jay Harrelson, pieced together an airplane and flew reconnaissance for General Wainwright. Eventually, even that airplane was destroyed, and along with the remaining Army Air Corp forces, he was ordered onto the Bataan Peninsula to act as infantry to blunt the Japanese assault. Out of food and ammunition and hope of a rescue force arriving from America, the forces on Bataan were ordered to surrender, which began with his being part of the now infamous Bataan Death March covering over 60 miles to Camp O'Donnell, his first prison camp. He later was imprisoned in seven other camps including Camp Cabanatuan, Davao Penal Colony, Cebu Camp, Bilibid Prison, Moji Camp, Fukuoha and finally Mukden Prison in Manchuria. He miraculously survived all of these notorious prisons as well as five Japanese "hell" ships, two of which were hit by our U.S. Navy who were unaware of the cargo of thousands of starving and dying Americans. He was released in October 1945 from Mukden by the Russian forces. At 6 feet 1 inch he weighed a mere 92 pounds. He was a 2nd Lieutenant when captured and promoted by a grateful country to 1st Lieutenant upon release. After returning from war, he went to Fort Worth to visit a high school friend Dorothy Elkin who had lost her husband when his airplane was shot down over Germany. Anxious to start his new life, they were married two months and 10 days later. His new wife Dorothy had a young daughter by her first husband, Linda, whom Charles lovingly accepted as his own. Soon to follow came a daughter, Lou Ann and a son, David. Charles' military career took the family to many places across the U.S., as well as overseas to England and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was in Rio, where as a liaison to the Brazilian Air Force, that his youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was born. He retired from the Air Force in 1961 as a major. After retirement from active duty, he worked for the next 20 years for the Army as a traffic management specialist civil servant until 1982. The family moved to Phoenix, AZ in 1963 which he and Dorothy called home for the next 40 years. After more than 50 years of marriage, Dorothy passed away, and in 2006 Charles moved to Tampa, where he lived until he passed away last week. He was an active member of the El Zaribah Shrine and a member of the ROJ Court #17. Although he had seen the worst of mankind in war, he never let that experience affect his life. He was a loving, patient, compassionate father, husband, son, and grandfather who also enjoyed a good party, dancing, singing, but mostly, his family. Words cannot express how very much we will always miss his sweet smile and the kindness he always bestowed on everyone he met. Services will be held at Hansen Chapel on Tuesday, Aug. 27, in Phoenix followed by internment at the Cave Creek National Cemetery. Surviving Charles Beck are daughters, Lou Ann Reddell of Phoenix; Elizabeth Studebaker and husband Terry, of Tipp City, OH, Linda Bentheim and husband William, of Phoenix; and son Charles David Beck, Jr. and wife Judi, of Tampa. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Teri Mendenhall, Diane Payne, Tricia Townsend, Todd Studebaker, Josh Talmadge, Adam Studebaker, and Lindsay Studebaker; great-grandchildren, Trevor and Abbie Mendenhall and Jordan and Alexis Shahbazian.

Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Aug. 25, 2013
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