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Horace Besecker Jr.

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Horace Morgan Besecker, Jr., 96, of Lexington died on August 31, 2013 at North Shore Hospice House following a stroke three days earlier. Born in Stoufferstown, Pennsylvania, Horace grew up in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, the son of the late Horace and Cora Besecker, brother of Helen Showalter and the late Frances Sites and Samuel Besecker. Horace attended a one room school house in Fayetteville until he entered Chambersburg High School and then enrolled in Gettysburg College, graduating with honors in 1939 with a degree in chemistry. In 1941, Horace married Isabel Gabler of Chambersburg. The young couple first lived in Philadelphia and then moved to Hasbrouck Heights NJ where their three children were born. In 1951, Horace and Isabel relocated to Lexington MA when Horace took a job at Electronic Corporation of America as a chemist. While Horace was a respected and talented chemist, his indignation over social and economic injustices and his desire to make a difference led him to make a bold career change in the late 1950s. After spending a year as the Director of Volunteer Services at City Mission Society, Horace enrolled in the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College where he received his MSW degree. After graduating, Horace became the Director of Social Services at CMS where he worked until his retirement in 1984. During his 28-year tenure at CMS, Horace was a vocal advocate and community organizer for welfare rights, civil rights, and prison reform. Whether as a community organizer, a provider of direct services, or the creator of programs to empower disenfranchised populations, Horace was known as a tireless advocate and educator. He lobbied for legislative change on Beacon Hill, conducted seminars in churches to educate others about the need for prison, welfare, and civil rights reform. He worked with many other Boston social service agencies to find more efficient and collaborative approaches to poverty and social change. While at CMS, Horace served as a board member of Farrington Memorial and the Howard Benevolent Society. Horace and his wife led summer programs for urban families and elders at Farrington Memorial in Lincoln, MA. After retirement, he served on the United Way Special Fund Advisory Committee and in 1998 received the Mary B. Newman Award for his extraordinary dedication to the mission of the Special Fund for Emergency Financial Assistance. Throughout his professional and personal life, Horace was actively engaged in the civil rights movement and not afraid to confront discrimination or inequity wherever he encountered it. In 1965, he joined 172 Boston area religious, civic, and lay leaders on a chartered flight from Boston to Selma AL for the memorial service of slain civil rights activist Rev. James J. Reeb where Martin Luther King delivered the eulogy. Following the service, he marched with thousands of others to the steps of the Selma Courthouse. More important to Horace than his journey to Selma, however, was the everyday work to which he dedicated himself in efforts to create a more just world. Horace always engaged in physical sport and activity and was known as a fierce competitor. In college, he was the Mid-Atlantic champion in his division of wrestling. After college, he played in amateur and semi-professional baseball and softball leagues until he was 50. He was a familiar presence and cheerleader on the playing fields of Lexington where he watched his two sons and two local grandchildren play countless games. He had great passion for Boston sports teams, and nothing pleased him more than watching every play of every inning in 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series. Horace was an active member of Hancock Church. Over the years, he served as Sunday School teacher, deacon, committee member, confirmation class teacher, and youth group advisor. For almost 10 years and beyond his 80th birthday, he accompanied members of the youth group at Hancock church to rural communities in Kentucky and West Virginia to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. In 2001, Horace received the Minuteman Cane Award, presented annually by the town of Lexington to a resident over 80 years who is actively involved in the community and is a source of inspiration to others. From the time he retired until 2008 when his macular degeneration imposed visual limitations, Horace dedicated himself to eradicating the invasive purple loosestrife from the Lexington Fitness Path. With scythe and other tools in hand, he worked almost daily, weather permitting, under the direction of Nell Walker who named him the King of Purple Loosestrife and publicly recognized him for his substantial volunteer efforts at the fitness path. Horace is predeceased by his beloved wife of 59 years, Isabel, his sister, Frances Sites, and his brother Samuel Besecker. He is survived by his sister, Helen Showalter of Chambersburg, PA, his three children Donna and husband Jack Walsh of Lowell, MA, Alan and wife Mary of Edmonton, Alberta, and David and wife Sandy of Westport Island, ME, and his four beloved grandchildren, Kate Walsh, Michael Walsh, Alison Besecker, and Jonathan Besecker. Horace is also survived by his committed partner, Barbara Piraino, whom he met after he moved to Youville Place in 2008. A memorial service to celebrate Horaces life will be held on October 12 at 2:00 at Hancock Church in Lexington. A reception at the church will follow the service. Contributions in Horaces name can be made to Habitat for Humanity or Southern Poverty Law Center.

Published in The Lexington Minuteman from Sept. 17 to Sept. 24, 2013
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