By Nathan Mayberg
LOCH SHELDRAKE July 23, 2004 Samuel Becker has always accomplished what was expected of him.
Even now, hes still reaching for that next goal.
Becker turned 100 years old on Tuesday, two years behind his older sister. And, as with everything else, he did so in sharp form.
Becker and his family celebrated his birthday at the annual Loch Sheldrake Fire Departments family picnic Sunday, which was thrown in first-class fashion. A live band, games for children and a seemingly endless supply of food and refreshments entertained the large crowd.
Becker was honored with a proclamation from Governor George Pataki and commendations from New York State Senator John Bonacic for his 69 years as a firefighter in the Loch Sheldrake Fire Company. Exactly 61 state senators passed a resolution in his honor.
The native of Loch Sheldrake and Hurleyville was actually born in Minsk, Russia. His family escaped the country in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War, in which Russia was defeated. Becker said his family was one of many Jewish families which fled at the time. Thousands of Jews were killed in Russia during the pogroms of 1905.
Becker was only an infant at the time. Almost immediately upon his familys arrival in New York, they moved to Circleville in Orange County, where they met their relatives.
It was not long before Samuels father opened up a candy store in Hurleyville, which would last for several decades. Beckers, as it was called, also had a pool parlor and a soda fountain. Becker became a polished pool player, astonishing his fellow firefighters even late in his life.
The store succeeded, in large part, due to its location next to the Ontario and Western Railroad station. It eventually incorporated wool and antiques among its items for sale.
Not everything went perfectly for the Beckers. They lost one of their homes to a fire when Sam was young. Undeterred, his father built a new house, along with an ice cream parlor in Loch Sheldrake. The store would eventually become an antiques shop that Becker would run until about ten years ago.
Similar to his father, Sam was great with his hands. During his time at the shop, he learned how to fix radios and sound equipment. It became the love and profession of his life.
From the 1930s through the 1950s, he would fix the radios and sound equipment for many of the hotels in the county. He worked out of most of the hotels in Fallsburg, all the way to Jeffersonville. He said his competitors fell by the wayside because he offered the cheapest rates.
Throughout his life, he collected old radios. He still owns two of the earliest and rarest: a 1923 Atwater-Kent 5-tube set, and another 5-tube set which is set in a plate glass case and was produced in 1925.
From early on, he enjoyed using ham radio as a way to communicate with others. His call letters are W2UNN.
Beckers niece, Audrey Kriss, noted that he was a very good cook. Her mother, Ida, lives in Miami, and just celebrated her 102nd birthday.
Their minds are so sharp, she said, sharp as a whip.
Stuart Wizwer, a fellow firefighter from the Hurleyville department, called Becker a fireman from the old school of firefighters.
So much has changed in firefighting since Becker first started. There was no such thing as an airpack or smoke mask to protect them back then, he said. There are many more manmade plastic inside homes that burn hotter now, said Wizwer.
Mitch Strauss, who worked alongside Becker in the Loch Sheldrake Fire Company, called him sharp as a tack. Becker and Strauss once talked together for hours about radios.
Its hard to believe what they went through years ago when they responded to a fire, explained Strauss.
Wizwer and Strauss both called Becker a man that younger firefighters look up to when they join the ranks.
Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Levine was also impressed with Becker:
Anytime somebody makes it to 100 years, it should be a celebrated occasion.