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Published: Friday, 7/16/2010

Ex-Toledoan's wake splits from tradition


FAIRLAWN, Ohio - When Frank Becker was a young father in Toledo, he often took his sons bowling.

Years later, he would write to his sons telling them he didn't want a memorial service or traditional funeral when he passed away. So this week, the sons honored their father's wishes after his death July 2.

There was no sad organ music played for their departed dad. Instead, they went bowling.

About 30 family members and friends gathered at Riveria Lanes in Fairlawn for a pot luck and a bowling party to remember the 91-year-old who had retired as a sales manager for Owens-Illinois, a maker of glass bottles.

"He considered the funeral rites in modern America to be barbaric," said Larry Becker, 58, a fund-raising consultant for his firm, Golden Rule Consulting of Copley Township.

His brother Dan Becker, 54, a manager in the planning department for the city of Raleigh, said he and his brother exchanged e-mails throwing out a variety of ideas before settling on a bowling wake.

"Larry jumped all over it," Dan said.

Bowling as family, he said, "was a big part of [our] childhood."

And along with knocking down a few pins, the Becker brothers also honored their father by having a few Manhattans, one of their dad's favorites.

"He raised us to drink Manhattans," Larry Becker said.

"I am my father's son," Dan Becker added.

The idea of thinking outside the casket was well-received by those at the wake.

"It is absolutely fantastic," the Rev. Jay Groat, senior pastor of First Congregational Church of Akron, where Larry Becker attended, said. "It is a celebration of life."

The Rev. Bill Rodefer, a retired Army colonel and chaplain who served in Vietnam and a family friend, said after more than 50 years of ministering, he had never heard of a bowling wake.

"They didn't want the morbid things that happen at funerals or memorial services," he said. "The family had a tremendous idea."

Frank Becker, a New York City native, served in the Army during World War II, guarding German prisoners at a POW camp in Louisiana. He was selected for that job because he spoke fluent German, his sons said.

He married Mary Margaret Becker in 1958. She died in 1968 at the age of 47 - leaving him to raise their three sons. He moved to the Akron area in 1999 from Toledo.

In the letter to his sons from 1982, when he put the brakes on a funeral service, he asked them to spread his ashes over his wife's grave in Toledo.

The brothers plan to honor that wish.


Akron Beacon Journal: 'Funeral traditions go on strike at bowling alley'

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