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Published: Monday, 5/6/2013

CHARLES C. BECK, 1943-2013

'Uncle Ben’ taught safety to a generation

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Retired police officer Charles C. Beck, who held a high-profile job as the Toledo Police Department’s Safe-T-City officer for 18 years and was recognized for rescuing a woman and her sons, died Friday at Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Toledo.

Mr. Beck, 69, died from lung cancer about four weeks after he was diagnosed, said Judy Beck, his wife of nearly 52 years.

Mr. Beck was well-known to hundreds of schoolchildren and their parents because of his assignment to the school safety unit. He also appeared for 12 years on a Saturday morning children’s program, The Uncle Ben Show, to teach children about crossing streets, walking against traffic, and talking to strangers.

Mr. Beck, who joined the police department in 1965, retired in 1992, his wife said.

He continued working until shortly before his death as a courier for Signature Bank in Sylvania.

“When he went to work for the bank, he had a whole different outlook,” his wife said.

“As a policeman, he had to be more cautious,” she added.

Dealing with bank customers was relaxing and allowed him to open up with people, she said. “It was a whole different Charlie Beck. He could relax. He just loved it.”

Mr. Beck was born in Toledo on June 12, 1943, to Grace and Clyde Beck. He was a 1962 graduate of Macomber High School and played football as quarterback for the Macmen. His team went 7-1-1 in his senior year and was city co-champions with DeVilbiss.

John Szabo, a former teammate and halfback, called Mr. Beck a demanding quarterback who sought the best from his teammates.

The two later developed a friendship that included hunting and fishing trips, Mr. Szabo said.

Mr. Beck attended some classes at the University of Toledo’s Scott Park campus, but did not earn enough credits to graduate, his wife said.

Mr. Szabo said Mr. Beck worked at Jeep for a time after leaving high school.

When the city began recruiting police and firefighters, Mrs. Beck said her husband passed both tests but accepted the job on the police force “because the police called him first.”

Mr. Beck spent his first nine years on the police force on the street and in the traffic section before joining the community-affairs office.

Retired Officer Tim Borkowski said Mr. Beck was his partner after leaving the academy. Both were in their early 20s when they joined the force and worked together for four years.

“We did a lot of good things together,” Mr. Borkowski said.

“He was all business when he was on the job,” said Mr. Borkowski, who credits Mr. Beck with saving his life while investigating a disturbance.

The two officers were interviewing an elderly woman who suffered from dementia and her family members when the woman stood up with a knife and lunged at Mr. Borkowski’s back.

Mr. Beck grabbed the woman’s wrist so hard, he fractured it to prevent her from stabbing his partner, Mr. Borkowski said.

“He really felt badly about that wrist,” Mr. Borkowski said.

He was given a citation for meritorious service in 1975 for rescuing a woman and her two sons from a fire.

In 1989, Mr. Beck was presented the inaugural Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer Award from the Lucas County Traffic Safety Task Force for his work establishing Safe-T-City, a miniature traffic layout designed to help children become safety-conscious.

In a January, 1992, interview after his last safety presentation, Mr. Beck estimated he spoke to some 25,000 schoolchildren a year about safety. In addition, he would speak to some 1,200 5-year-olds each summer who attended Safe-T-City.

In the interview at Christ the King School, Mr. Beck said he passed along more than safety rules when speaking with schoolchildren.

“I think it’s very important to have the uniform of a police officer in schools because, let’s face it, the only thing these kids know about police is what they hear out there — writing citations, notifying people of deaths, locking people up in jail. At least they can see the uniform in a positive aspect.”

Mrs. Beck said her husband was frequently recognized by his young charges when the couple were about town running errands.

“They used to follow us in the grocery store. You’d turn around and see these little heads poking out around the aisle and say, ‘I think that’s him,’ ” she said. “The kids always remembered him.”

Mr. Beck helped coach Little League baseball teams that played in their Heatherdowns Boulevard neighborhood.

After retiring from the police department, the couple moved to a lake near Hillsdale. The need to be closer to their doctors in Toledo prompted them to move to the Temperance area.

Mr. Beck is survived by his wife, Judy, whom he married on June 23, 1962; his son, Craig Beck; daughter, Jodie Beck; six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Newcomer Funeral Home, 4150 W. Laskey Rd., where the funeral will be at 7 p.m. Memorials are suggested to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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