York Town Square

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Part II: Add war hero Col. William H. Beckner as a York County, Pa., ‘servant of civility’

Student skywatchers on the grounds of Edgar Fahs Smith Junior High watch for enemy aircraft early in World War II. After Pearl Harbor, defense officials planned for such an attack and everyone was involved in such preparations. Col. William H. Beckner (see photograph below) capably headed those efforts in the York area as Civilian Defense director. A exhibit to recognize those homefront efforts – as well as the men and women in uniform, is set to open June 14 at the York County Heritage Trust. Also of interest: Pearl Harbor: ‘I always said we would never know the real thing if it would ever happen’ and York County Pearl Harbor survivor: ‘We need to prevent attacks of that nature’ and The first to die in (World) War (II) …

My nomination of the late Col. William H. Beckner as a York Daily Record/Sunday News servant of civility has drawn a chorus of amens from the public and widely spread family members.
I suggested Col. Beckner, who helped the community keep its collective head in the days after Pearl Harbor, as representative of such promoters of the peace from the past.
I include excerpts of some of those emails below with the purpose of telling more about this World War I veteran and longtime community leader: …

From Victoria A. Beckner:

“Col. Beckner and his wife, Ieleen were blessed with 5 children and I am one of their 16 grandchildren. He passed when I was a child, but I remember a man with a strong sense of family, as well as duty, honor and country. “

From Hickman Beckner:

“Thank you for the article about Col. William H. Beckner. He was my grandfather and although he died when I was young, I do have many memories of ‘The Colonel.’
“He wanted to return to military service when World War II broke out but his age disqualified him. He turned his energies to Civilian Defense for the remainder of the war.”

From Joseph Beckner:
“As a young man, I remember my father, William H.Beckner, Jr., taking me downtown to buy my first real suit when I was about 8 years old (around 1969). As we talked to the clerk at the store, he and my father talked about ‘The Colonel,’ and I remember the clerk telling me what a great man my grandfather was ( he passed when i was about 2 years old).
“On another occasion, I went to a music store downtown (It has been there a long time, so the name escapes me now). I was buying reeds for my saxophone. The man who ran the store asked me my name, and when I said ‘Joseph Beckner,’ he said, ‘Are you the Colonel’s grandson?’ I just stood there, stunned, that a man would remember my grandfather, who had been gone 15 years by then. ‘Yes, sir,’ I said, proud of a man I had never met.
“Again, thank you for remembering. So many times, we forget those who have paved the way for us. In many ways, current generations have forgotten the sense of civic duty and pride that those generations (the World War I and II generations) took for granted. They gave to their city and country not because there was fame or fortune involved, but because it was their duty to do so. And they did that duty so that we could enjoy the freedoms and bounty of this great country.”
From Walt Callahan, son of a friend of Col. Beckner:

“My father (Dan Callahan) and he were the best of friends. Dad was a mail carrier in the Rathton Road neighborhood for many years and Col. Beckner lived on his route. At our supper table, we often heard about Col. Beckner’s pronouncements. Dad was an excellent judge of character, and Col. Beckner was at the top of his list. Your description of him as “precise and erudite” would get a big ‘Amen’ from Dad. Dad died on April 3, 1961 and it is my recollection that Col. Beckner died shortly thereafter, and I suspect their lively conversations are ongoing.”

To which, Martin Beckner, Col. Beckner’s son, said:

“I and my sister received several copies of the article from several
different sources. It was an honor to have you think so highly of my father.
“I was delighted to get the note received from Walt Callahan! We were at the
end of his route and my mother always invited him in our house to give him a
cool or hot- depending on the weather- drink. He was a fine man and he and
our family were as one.”

And about Martin Beckner, Joe Beckner wrote:

“He’s a great man in his own right, and we’re very proud of him.”

Now, doesn’t all of this point to the value of family and community?

Col. William H. Beckner
Also of interest
– Nominate your York County servants of civility here.
View the initial list of names of 20 servants of civility. View the list of additional servants nominated by the public.
All Yorktownsquare.com World War II posts from the start.
Also of interest, again
Pearl Harbor: ‘I always said we would never know the real thing if it would ever happen’ and York County Pearl Harbor survivor: ‘We need to prevent attacks of that nature’ and The first to die in (World) War (II) …
All York Town Square posts from the start. Then use “find” function on browser to search for keywords.
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, when you search for yorktownsquare and World War II, you get this.