Planting Seeds, Letting Go
Crockett, I never liked you. Those were words, tongue-in-cheek, that I often heard from a former boss, colleague and, more importantly, friend, Paul Beck. It is with a heavy heart that I must report that Paul, CSE's chief editor and resident funnyman from 1991 through 1997, passed away at age 45 after a four-year battle with cancer.
Crockett, I never liked you. Those were words, tongue-in-cheek, that I often heard from a former boss, colleague and, more importantly, friend, Paul Beck. It is with a heavy heart that I must report that Paul, CSE's chief editor and resident funnyman from 1991 through 1997, passed away at age 45 after a four-year battle with cancer. Paul joined the magazine in 1989 as a senior editor and moved on in late 1997 just after I joined the staff—maybe he wasn't kidding about not liking me... At the time, he was actually transitioning from print to dedicate his talents full-time to the web. He astutely saw the future of the media, launching what was then known as BuildingTeam.com, which exists today as ReedFirstSource.com. Under Paul's stewardship, CSE also launched csemag.com in 1996—one of the first web sites to be created by the company. In those early days of the web, Paul was a business-to-business e-pioneer and had to have the trademark toughness—and stubbornness—to see these then risky, and not very profitable, operations through.
But enough of the working Paul. I'd like to speak a little on the man within and the traits I just noted. About four years ago, out of the blue, Paul wasn't feeling well. What he thought might have been pneumonia turned out to be cancer. He was given six months to live. Seemingly miraculous, Paul and his wife, Pam, found a specialist who believed he could operate on the cancer. Complications arose and the procedure could not be done. But rather than be crushed by this setback, Paul plowed forward, taking on chemotherapy. He did so for four years. He did so because he was tough and because he was determined to still be a part of his family's life.
At his memorial service, Pam recalled the times she and Paul would slip into their children's room at night, and he would say, “How did we get so lucky?” to which Pam was flabbergasted. But that was the incredible optimism he had. He'd send e-mails of how he was doing and never stopped zinging me. In fact, one time, he relayed that he wanted to send out Christmas cards saying, “Not dead yet,” but Pam said no. That was Paul. In the face of it all, I believed he might beat this thing. In his final days, Pam conveyed some wisdom delivered from her husband. He said he was not afraid of leaving this world because he trusted her and his kids. He knew that they were surrounded by people who loved them and would care for them. He was at peace. At the conclusion of the service, one of his friends read a short children's story Paul had written: The Tangerine Seed. Briefly, the tale was about a girl who swallows a seed and thinks a tangerine tree will grow out of her mouth. At first she's mortified, then enticed, then fearful again of the bad things that could happen to her tummy tree. In the end, she overcomes her worries and decides to take her chances and plants the seed.
The headline of Paul's first editorial was “Engineering 2000? It's up to you.” Like the planting of a seed in Paul's story I say take some chances, plant some dreams and let them grow. And go home and hug your kids and loved ones and appreciate all of the true treasures in life.
Memorials in support of the future education of Paul's children, Jack and Amelia, may be made to: Beck Family Fund, Bank of Park Ridge, 104 S. Main St., Park Ridge, IL 60068, (847) 823-8500.