Charles "Chuck" Beckman Jr. of Batavia was passionate about taking care of the town in which he grew up.
That included a 16-year stint as a firefighter; fixing people's vehicles as the founder of Chuck's Garage; supervising children's education as a Batavia school board member; and keeping an eye on city business as an alderman for 30 years.
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Beckman, 84, died Sunday.
"He always had the best interests of Batavia at heart," Mayor Jeff Schielke said.
Beckman was alderman from 1975 to 2005. And the only reason he didn't try to serve longer was because he was suffering from ill health, and chose not to run again for his 2nd Ward seat.
"He was opinionated. I did not always agree with him, but we always got along," 5th Ward Alderman Eldon Frydendall said Monday. Frydendall broke Beckman's record as longest-serving alderman; he's been on the city council since 1981.
Frydendall worked with Beckman as chairmen of two efforts to rebuild Batavia's city hall, as well as build a new city warehouse and public works garage. "We put our all into it," Frydendall said, and Beckman was proud of the results.
Schielke said Beckman, while conservative about spending money, was open-minded when it came to adding staff or improving facilities as the town grew in the 1980s. Some of that came from his service in the fire department; when he started, Beckman was sometimes the lone employee on duty, answering the phone and driving the firetruck to the scene. "He knew what it was like as a city employee to work under austere conditions," Schielke said.
Beckman was also interested in improvements to the city's two cemeteries, including the West Side Cemetery, in which he will be buried.
The mayor said Beckman "had very strong opinions on a lot of different subjects. He took his public positions and he stood by them." But while the two crossed swords from time to time, their relationship remained civil and cordial.
The lifelong resident left Batavia to serve in the Air Force from 1951 to 1955.
"He was just the old-time Batavia guy," Frydendall said.
Among issues late in his city council career, Beckman was outspoken about keeping the state from tearing down the north dam on the Fox River. He also opposed plans to build a second bridge downtown, a plan voters defeated in 2000. He was the 2005 Loyalty Day Parade grand marshal, and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Batavia posts.
Beckman dropped out of school after the eighth grade to go to work to support his family, but later obtained his GED certificate, shortly before his oldest child graduated high school. He started the garage with just $38, a toolbox and a truck in 1957, according to the obituary his family wrote. The obituary also described him as "tenacious."
Beckman is survived by his wife, Norma, the grammar school sweetheart he married in 1948; one daughter; three sons; five grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; a great-grandson; three sisters; and a brother.
His wake is from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Moss Family Funeral Home, 209 S. Batavia Ave. The funeral is at 11 a.m. Saturday at Batavia Covenant Church, 1314 Main St. Memorial contributions may be directed to the church, of which Beckman was a member.