the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

A Good Man

Today we buried my father. Ernest John Becker was an amazing, yet humble man. He was a leader in the Spokane community, serving on many civic, Gonzaga University, and church boards. He was the managing partner at the biggest accounting firm in the city. Yet, at least with his kids, he didn’t talk about these things. To us kids, he was just Dad.

Dad grew up in Colton, Washington, a small farming community near Pullman. Actually, he grew up on a farm several miles outside Colton. He was one of 14 children. The farm was at the base of Bald Butte, a rounded chunk of bedrock sticking several hundred feet above the rolling hills of the Palouse. Several years ago, I talked with Dad about his life, and he said that Bald Butte was his favorite place. It held great memories for him of growing up on the farm, and he still liked to visit the Palouse and Bald Butte when he got the chance.

He eventually left the farm, joining the Army and serving in the Korean War. He didn’t talk much about those days, at least to me or my siblings. After three years in the Army, he returned to Washington and attended Gonzaga University, earning a degree in accounting. About that time, he married my mother, and together they started their own large family. I am one of seven children; the oldest boy, third oldest overall.

Over the past week, all of us shared photos of Dad. I have all the old slides that Mom and Dad shot from the late 1950s through the 1980s. I went through several hundred, and scanned quite a few to share with my brothers and sisters. One brother made photo collages for the reception after the service; I made a slide show of Dad’s life. There were several shots of Dad proudly holding his first baby son back in 1959 and 60, and I couldn’t help but think today, that now I was carrying him as one of the pall bearers.

I suppose I got my love of photography from him. While growing up, whenever we took a trip, Dad had his camera out, taking photos of the family and the scenery. I don’t know when he got his first camera, I never had the chance to ask, but I did scan one photo of Dad as a young man, perhaps 20 years old, camera in hand. My mother also took a lot of photos, so perhaps I came to photography from both sides.

Dad also bestowed his love of nature on me (and my siblings). Every year he’d load up the station wagon and hitch up the tent trailer, and off the nine of us would go to explore the American west. I remember trips to Glacier National Park, the Oregon coast, Arches National Park, Yellowstone, the west coast of Vancouver Island, and southern California.

He loved to travel. A few years after my mother died, Dad met and fell in love with my stepmom, Anita. There  eight years ago, when Dad was 81 years old. Together they discovered the wonders of Europe and Hawaii during multiple trips. In between the trips, they enjoyed life in Spokane. It was wonderful to see him so happy in his later years.

I’m like him in so many ways – the photography, love of nature and travel, quiet by nature – and I must have been told 20 times today at the funeral that I look just like him. Which is good, I guess, since I think he was a handsome man. Perhaps you agree? The photo above is one I took about two years ago, at Bald Butte in fact. It was probably the last time he was there. The one below is his high-school portrait – then the year he left the farm and Bald Butte behind to make his way in the world.

He died about two weeks ago, and I still have a hard time believing he is gone. He was the very definition of a good man – humble, loyal, steadfast, smart, and generous. And while, perhaps, a little bit of him lives on in me, in my memories and my genes; I will miss him. Rest in peace Dad.

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18 responses

  1. I am so sorry for your loss Joe. Prayers for you and all the family. He was amazing and you are so blessed that he instilled the love of nature into your soul.

    February 16, 2018 at 5:47 pm

  2. A good story of a good life. So sorry for your loss.

    February 16, 2018 at 5:53 pm

  3. Very sorry to hear about your father’s passing. Wonderful story with fond memories. Just how I’m sure he’d like to be remembered.

    February 16, 2018 at 6:42 pm

  4. A good man who will always live in your heart…
    Beautiful tribute.
    So sorry for your loss.

    February 17, 2018 at 4:29 am

    • Thank you for your kind words.

      February 19, 2018 at 12:19 pm

  5. Joe, so very sorry for your loss. It’s a great tribute to him that you have written. You and your family remain in my prayers.

    February 17, 2018 at 5:06 am

  6. Linda Tuell

    This is so very nice, Joe. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts. He sounds like a wonderful
    man, who will live on in your heart. And, yes, you do look like him…very special.

    Take care,
    Linda Tuell

    Sent from my iPad

    February 17, 2018 at 6:20 am

  7. Jo, I am a follower of your beautiful blog and want to share with you my tribute to my Mother, who would have been 100 this past year if she had lived. She was 93 when she died and lived a great, full life as did your Dad. She was a country girl from N.C. and moved to FL where she had a wonderful life and career. When you wrote that your father was “humble, loyal, steadfast, smart, and generous”, that also discribed my Mother. We are both so fortunate to have had parents who we can appreciate their lives, personalities, and talents. Blessings to you!
    Nancy at Boyer Writes (not certain how to add this link so you can click on it, but maybe you can scan it.)
    https://boyerwrites.com/2017/12/03/memories-of-my-mother/

    February 18, 2018 at 5:16 am

    • Nancy, your link worked fine. Your mother sounds like she was a lovey person. You are correct that we are both fortunate to have such parents. Thank you so much.

      February 19, 2018 at 12:31 pm

  8. Angi

    What an awesome tribute. Need to call my dad and stepdad more often. So sorry for your loss.

    February 19, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    • Thank you for your comment. Yes, it is important to see our parents more, I wish I had seen my Dad more before he got sick.

      February 26, 2018 at 12:10 pm

  9. I am so sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and your family!

    February 22, 2018 at 4:44 pm

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