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Ronald L. Beckett

Company A-2

3 Feb 1939 - 23 May 2000

Place of Death: Grasonville, MD

Interment: Crownsville, Veterans Cemetery. Crownsville, MD

As Jim Blesse so appropriately wrote in notifying our A-2 classmates of Ron's death:

It is with great sadness that I must report to you about the passing (at 2130, 23 May) of Ron Beckett, who was my roommate at West Point for more than 3 years and was one of the TRUEST friends I ever had — over almost 43 years.

Ron had a great sense of humor which made a very positive and lasting impression on my life — as I am sure it did on yours. I do not know what the funeral arrangements will be - but will provide info as it is available - just wanted to give you a "heads up".  If you have questions, call me (Jim Blesse) at 703-791-5431 or Paul DeVries (the ‘ Other’ roommate) at 703-799-4419 or (last choice) Jane Beckett at 410-827-8862.”



Class Memorial Pages\A-2 Ron Beckett.pdf


The second highest ranking Anne Arundel County school official died of liver cancer last night at his home in Grasonville. Ronald Lee Beckett, 61, Associate Superintendent for Business and Management Services, was with his wife, school spokesman Jane Beckett, and other family and friends at his death.

Mr. Beckett came to the county school system 17 years ago after a decorated career in the Army, including three tours in Vietnam.

During his final tour, Mr. Beckett was district senior advisor in Long Khanh Province. He retired from the service as a lieutenant colonel.

"He was kind of an anachronism in our time," Mrs. Beckett said. "He really was a true patriot. He loved the flag. He loved the national anthem. He loved the Army."

Mr. Beckett showed that same devotion to friends and colleagues.

Schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham, Mr. Beckett’s boss and friend, said he was unique in his "real sense of duty, responsibility and loyalty — particularly loyalty."

"It’s a great loss for the school system and me as superintendent," she said.

Mr. Beckett’s imposing stature and professional demeanor masked a wicked sense of humor. He also loved gadgets and electronic gizmos.

Kenneth P. Lawson, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Student Services, said his colleague was a favorite at retirement parties where he would dress in a turban and cape, imitating a Middle Eastern fortune teller character created by former late night talk show host Johnny Carson.

Theresa Cadell, who worked as Mr. Beckett’s secretary before retiring last year, said she looked forward to the "supposed gifts" her boss brought back from business trips. One year she got a talking chicken.

"I thought about retiring for a long time, but he made working fun, so I kept hanging on," she said.

Mrs. Cadell helped care for Mr. Beckett when he became too ill to work.

"His sense of humor was an important part of his personality and it remained with him until the end," she said.

Mr. Beckett, a 1961 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, received numerous awards during his military service including the Soldier’s Medal, two Bronze Stars for Valor, a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, three Air Medals for Meritorious Service, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and numerous other awards.

Mr. Beckett served as chief of Europe/NATO branch in the Security Assistance Division at the U.S. European Command in Germany.

"Ron may be the only authentic hero I’ve ever known," Mr. Lawson said.

Other survivors include his daughters, Natasha Sabelhaus of Silver Spring, Natanya Beckett of Bowie, and his former wife, Nancy C. Beckett of Ocean City. He has three step-children and two grandchildren.

He is also survived by his mother, Margaret Gresham, and his half-brother, David Gresham, both of Chapmanville, W.Va.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice of Queen Anne’s, 300 Del Rhodes Avenue, Queenstown, MD 21658.

Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:

Ronald Lee Beckett was known for his leadership abilities, incredible common sense, and fantastic sense of humor. He could always be counted on to do the right thing and was never known to shirk his duty or responsibilities. These attributes contributed to Ron's reputation as an excellent officer in both peace and war. Additionally, he was a superb athlete who could successfully participate in any sport. His 5'8" frame and 18 1/2-inch neck naturally ragged him with the nickname of "Bucket" or "Bucks". Further, Ron was blessed with an intuitive imagination that provided him the ability to solve the most difficult problems.

Ron was born in Logan, WV, to Guy and Margaret Beckett. He attended high school at Kentucky Military Institute in Lyndon, KY, where he earned all-state honors as a fullback. Entering the Academy on 2 Jul 1957, he was assigned to the 6th New Cadet Company and became fast friends with Jim Blesse and Paul DeVries. September found all three assigned to Company A-2 with Ron playing fullback on the plebe football team.

Upon successfully surviving Plebe year, the three friends decided they would room together as yearlings. Early in the year, an altercation with three upperclassmen gave the friends the nickname "The Three Bears".  Ron, though not the oldest, was respected for his fairness, maturity, and overall leadership and became known as "Papa Bear". Paul, the oldest and always concerned about his roommates' academic and spiritual well-being, became known as "Mama Bear", and Jim, the youngest and most free-spirited of the three, became "Baby Bear".  The nicknames, as well as the friendships, lasted a lifetime.

An A-2 classmate summed up the "Three Bears" friendship: "I think all of us were somewhat envious of the close bond [the] roommates exhibited. [They] maintained such a sense of humor that no matter what the circumstances, [they] helped the rest of us make our way through the maze known as cadet life."

Upon graduation, Ron and his fellow Bears joined the Infantry.  While on graduation leave in his hometown, Ron met Nancy Farley, and they married after Ron completed the Basic Course. Ron and his new bride reported to the 2d Battle Group, 14th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, in Hawaii, where their first child, Natasha, was born in 1962.  In 1963, Ron served his first tour in Viet Nam (a six-month voluntary TDY assignment from Hawaii) as the leader of a door-gunner platoon in the 120th Aviation Battalion.  Returning to the States in 1965, he deployed to Viet Nam with the 1st Infantry Division, distinguishing himself as a company commander and staff officer.

The Bears were reunited at the Advanced Course in 1967.  Afterwards, Ron earned a masters degree in political science from the University of Alabama, graduating with distinction. In 1969, he returned to Viet Nam, where he served as a district senior advisor in Long Khanh Province in III Corps. After this tour, Ron was an ROTC instructor at Widner College in Chester, PA.  While there, he demonstrated his all-around capabilities by volunteering to teach a course open to the entire student body, "Military and Foreign Policy." Ron's course was a hit, and he enhanced the image of the "soldier-scholar" at Widner. In 1971, Ron's and Nan's second child, Natanya, was born.

Ron's military career continued with assignments in 1973 as commanding officer of the Correctional Control Facility and XO of the 1st Training Brigade at Ft. Polk, as a student at CGSC in 1976, followed by attaché training at Ft. Bragg, and subsequent study of Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. Ron was assigned to Headquarters, Europe, in Stuttgart, Germany, as chief of the Europe/NATO branch of the Security Assistance Division.  Back in the States in 1982, Ron joined the staff and faculty of the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA. He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1983 and accepted a position as assistant superintendent of schools in Anne Arundel County, MD.  Here he served the school system with distinction as an educator, administrator, and leader for 17years.  During this time, two grandchildren joined the Beckett family: Max and Francesca, both born to Natasha and her husband, Joe.

In 1997, Ron married Jane Walker Doyle, a school colleague.  In the years before his death in 2000, they lived on the eastern shore of Maryland, where their combined family of five children and two grandchildren enjoyed many happy times together. As luck would have it, Ron's life-long friends, Jim and Paul, also retired in the DC area.  The Bears, along with their spouses, made a pact to spend a weekend together every six to eight weeks. During these outings, they always rehashed memories of their cadet days and their adventures in the Army and thereafter.

In November 1999, Ron was diagnosed with cancer. While undergoing treatment, Mama Bear and Baby Bear visited frequently to encourage their friend to rally.  But, after six months of battling cancer, Ron succumbed to an enemy no soldier can conquer.  By his side until his death was his beloved wife, Jane.

Ron Beckett will be remembered as a proud member of the Long Gray Line who loved West Point, a leader, a loving husband and father, a consummate  professional soldier, a devoted friend, and a patriot.  His humor, intellect, courage, and compassion will live on in the hearts and minds of those of us who respected and loved him. Ron enriched our lives and the lives of all those around him.  It was a better Army because Ron was a part of it.  And West Point was a better institution because Ron Beckett passed through it. Grip hands with us all, Ron Beckett; you are with us still.

Jane Beckett-Donohue, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear