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James Beck, 75, passed away peacefully at home on October 28, 2018.
He was born January 18, 1943 in Kankakee, Illinois, the eldest child of James and Katherine Beck. Raised in Kankakee and graduating from St. Patrick High School in 1961 with athletic accolades for baseball and football, he spent a year as a member of the Illinois State football team before graduating with a degree in English. He married his high school sweetheart Diana (Danca) Beck in Kankakee in 1964, and in 1965 began his teaching and coaching careers at Wauconda High School. In 1969 he moved to Crystal Lake High School (now Crystal Lake Central), where he spent nine years before joining the inaugural staff at the newly-opened Crystal Lake South in 1978, where he was a member of the English department, the first Varsity Head Coach for baseball, and taught and coached baseball, football and basketball until his retirement in 1999. His 34 year career in the classroom and on the sidelines was proof he loved what he did, and was born to live a life educating and being an example for others.
In addition he also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds; and in later years developed an interest in photography and writing. In 2012, he authored “Touching Home: A 50-Year Journey Through The Fields of Sport,” a collection of his columns and essays written over the years for the Northwest Herald which whimsically covered the experiences, stories, characters, perspectives and life lessons gleaned from his years in sports, from his initial forays as a youth to his final stand leading the 1993 Crystal Lake South Gators to the final four of the IHSA Baseball State Championship tournament.
A stickler for sportsmanship, as well as the need to make sure you still had fun in whatever you did, he always stressed that what counts was the effort you put in and that you gave your fullest, no matter the outcome. Upon retiring from baseball in the press conference at the conclusion of the 1993 IHSA tournament after two close losses, he reflected on what was really important. “In life you win some and you lose some. I told the kids that what matters is how you play the game, and to be proud of that. I guess I’ve won and lost enough in my life to know the difference.”
He and Diana, who also worked at Crystal Lake South over a long career, took great pride in the deep relationships they had with students, players, teachers, staff, parents, referees, journalists and everyone else who was involved in the school and teams. They greatly enjoyed seeing people years later and discussing where life had taken them, and always with a joy about the time they spent together at CLS. They were especially pleased to attend the semi-final game of the 2017 IHSA Baseball State Finals which CLS ultimately went on to win, and joined the rest of Cub Nation in celebrating the 2016 World Series Championship of their beloved team.
He is survived by Diana, his loving wife of 54 years; his children, Brian (Grace) Beck, Kevin (Tracey) Beck, and Erin (Joe) Kafka; his grandchildren, Jacqueline, Jennifer, Jessica, Julia and Jillian Beck; Maggie, Katie and Anthony Beck; and Quinn and Ashleigh Kafka, all of whom he adored and cherished. He is also survived by his brother, Joseph; and sister-in-law, Cindy Danca. He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Katherine, as well as many favorite uncles and aunts.
The visitation will be from 4-9 p.m. Thursday, November 1, at Davenport Family Funeral Home, 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal Lake. Prayers will be said at the funeral home at 12:30 p.m., Friday, November 2, 2018, proceeding to St. Thomas of the Apostle Catholic Church, 451 W. Terra Cotta, Crystal Lake for a funeral Mass at 1:00 p.m. Burial will be at Crystal Lake Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the American Diabetes Association www.diabetes.org.
American Diabetes Association - Chicago
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