Long-time editor passes

—Ken Becker had finger on pulse of H.C.
CRESCO - The people of Cresco and Howard County lost a true supporter when Ken Becker passed away on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019.
From 1976 until his retirement in 2011, as a writer, photographer, editor and friend, Becker kept the area informed as to what was taking place during his 35-year stint at the Times Plain Dealer.
On the job
Current publisher Dan Evans said, “It was a pleasure working with Ken for the short time I did. He really knew the town and the county. He was a good guy.”
Former Sheriff Mark Grinhaug worked closely with Ken, professionally and personally. He remembers, “First of all were the numerous Monday mornings Ken stopped at the Law Enforcement Center to pick up news releases or public interest stories. He was never pushy about obtaining the information, and he realized there were times we didn’t have, or couldn’t yet release, some of the information. He would take notes and ask questions, but always patiently and without being demanding. 
“Several times he would call back to our office to clarify a particular item so that he could report it accurately. And, on more than one occasion, Ken would deliver a typed copy of the article so that we could verify the information was accurate prior to the Times being sent to the printer. 
“At times, language can become somewhat colorful in a law enforcement setting. In spite of our (at times) poor influence, the raciest adjective I ever heard Ken say was ‘son of a biscuit.’ 
“He was truly a professional, and he helped us in so many ways, especially prior to the advent of digital photography. When we built a darkroom for developing black and white photos at the sheriff’s department, Ken was instrumental in directing us in how to set it up properly and which supplies to order. 
“And at so many accident and crime scenes, Ken would either show up, or we would call him to take professional photos, no matter the time of day or night.”
Grinhaug went on to say Becker would ride with his family to away games, which made them become fast friends.
Longtime friend and co-worker Jim Turvold said, “Ken really loved Cresco. He was a good citizen.”
Many times, locals asked him to attend a meeting or do a story on a particular subject, and they got a lot more than they bargained for. Sure, they got a great story that was accurate and got the word out about their organization or event, but they also got Becker himself. And if it was a subject he believed in, he gave it his all.
When he stepped down as secretary for the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation after 19 years, in May 2018, he told the Times Plain Dealer, “In 1999, I thought I was going to a meeting to report on the [newly-formed organization]. I walked out as secretary!”
Fellow NBHF board member and friend Tom Spindler said, “I first got to know Ken in the early 80s. I was a young teacher, and he was covering a project I was doing for school for the Times. He asked some questions and took a few notes.”
The next week, there was this great article on it. I thought, he didn’t really write much down, but the article was spot on. His writing was excellent! 
“You would always see Ken around the community in his many capacities as news and sports editor, main writer and photographer. This went on for decades. His interest in and love of all the towns in the Howard-Winneshiek area was evident in all the many endeavors in which Ken was involved. The Times inducted him into the Hall of Fame because of his commitment to making these communities better places to live. 
“Ken was one of the founding board members on the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation, started in 2000. He would serve as secretary until this last year. Along with [the late] Jack Thomson and others, Norman entrusted this group to preserve his boyhood farm. With the addition of Borlaug’s birthplace home acquired in 2009, Ken has been one of the team that has transformed both farms into a place Norm would be proud of. I remember Ken coming to my classroom in 2004 to ask me if I would consider joining the NBHF board. He knew of my interest in Dr. Borlaug through my teaching. I felt honored to be asked, and I give Ken the credit for getting me involved.”
Spindler continued, “Ken has left an indelible mark on his community, both with his body of work that everyone came to know at the Times Plain Dealer and his life long community service.”
Passionate. That’s how he was about many of the organizations to which he belonged.
Shortly after moving to Cresco, Becker helped organize Cresco Community Theatre. He went on to direct plays at the Cresco Theatre & Opera House and at the high school.
“Ken was a friend of the community,” said Ellen Murphy. “We became friends through Cresco Community Theatre, and I later worked with him at the Times Plain Dealer. He taught me so much about journalism, theatre and photography.
“He was an encyclopedia of knowledge about Howard County, and his coverage of events as editor and photographer are forever recorded in the pages of the Times Plain Dealer.” 
Becker was also on the Theatre Commission when it was renovated in 1979. It was at the grand opening when he and others sang “Little Mary Sunshine.” It was such a hit, Becker was approached about starting a music group, and Elm Street Singers was born.
A few years later, someone put a bug in his ear about having a Christmas Parade. In 1982 the first Santa’s Holiday Parade was held. Besides being in charge, Becker made floats for many parades, storing them in his garage.
When RAGBRAI® XXI passed through in July 1993, Becker was one of the first to offer his help and was declared chairman. In 1996, during RAGBRAI® XXV’s overnight stay, he was co-chair. 
He was on the Chamber Board during its move to the present location in 2004; was a member of the morning Kiwanis Club; was a long-time member of the Cresco Tree Committee; helped start the Master Gardeners program; and so much more.
Love of God
Becker’s First Lutheran Church family was very important to him. His fellow parishioner Don Wearda said, “Ken was a regular church-attendee. He was always willing to offer a helping hand to make sure an event or a program was a success.”
He served as chairman for the council, as well as other committee positions. He was president of First Lutheran Church during the construction of the new addition and served on Sundays during lay service.
Becker was in the choir and joined the men’s breakfast group. Wearda noted he really enjoyed that fellowship. “Ken was very involved in all church activities, and like it has been said before, ‘If you need something done, ask a busy person, and it will be accomplished.’ That was Ken through and through.”
Grinhaug had one last thing to say that is the sentiment of all who knew Becker, “I know the last few years were a struggle for Ken, with his health issues that went so long undiagnosed. In spite of that, he always had that quick wit and upbeat manner that I will remember. He will be missed!”
Ken Becker left his mark in this community.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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