Published March 31, 2011
Deacon Richard F. Beckman, a retired deacon of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, died on Sunday, March 13, at the age of 84. He served his entire active diaconate for 17 years at St. John the Evangelist Church, where he was a charter member.
A native of Ohio, Deacon Beckman was raised in Dayton, Ohio, where he attended Corpus Christi and Sacred Heart Latin Schools and graduated from Chaminade High School in June 1943. As a senior, he enlisted in the Army Specialized Training Program at age 17 and was sent to North Carolina State University in Raleigh. After his 18th birthday in 1944, he was sent to Infantry Basic Training at Camp Wheeler in Macon. He served his military service in the United States, either in infantry or anti-aircraft units, until he was discharged in April 1946.
Deacon Beckman entered Emory University in September 1946 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in March 1950. He worked for the Associated Press in Chattanooga, Tenn., and later in Columbus at the Enquirer where he served as political reporter and city editor before entering federal employment in 1961 with the U.S. Study Commission and later with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
He retired in 1987 to pursue diaconal training. He was ordained in 1987 in a class of 51 deacons and was the first permanent deacon for St. John the Evangelist. A bachelor, he was also the only candidate in his class to take a vow of celibacy at ordination. Among his many roles at St. John the Evangelist, Deacon Beckman served as the president of the parish council, chairman of the worship committee, minister to the sick, member of the Legion of Mary and editor of a monthly publication, “The Evangelist,” for the parish.
In an article written for his retirement for The Georgia Bulletin in 2006, Deacon Beckman was called the “heart and soul” of his parish. Writer Pam Henry listed the many parish ministries he had established and fostered during his 50 years of ministry there, including setting up “guidelines for altar servers, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, lectors, sacristans and ushers.” He maintained the schedule for lay ministers for the Masses, recruited ministers to serve, trained and retrained them, and taught others to train. She said, “Individuals such as Richard Beckman are unique and truly irreplaceable. … Deacon Beckman has left an indelible mark on the parish that is St. John the Evangelist with the selfless sharing of his considerable gifts. He has touched and shaped nearly every aspect of the fabric of this parish’s life. We are immensely grateful for the gift he has been to us.”
In the article, Father Edward Thein, pastor, said of him, “He is a man of prayerfulness. … He has been the transition team for every pastor who has served here. … He has been the lynchpin for the parish in a lot of dimensions.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory granted his retirement in 2006 due to macular degeneration, and Deacon Beckman moved from East Point to assisted living in Decatur, where he was a member of St. Thomas More Church.
Deacon Beckman is survived by four nieces and nephews: Judy K. Brown of Warner Robins; Connie K. McMullen and her husband, Robert N. Jr. of Lilburn; Mark F. Keinat; and Rick Keinat and his wife, Susan, of Richmond, Texas.
The funeral Mass for Deacon Beckman was celebrated on Friday, March 18, at St. John the Evangelist Church. Memorial donations may be made to St. John the Evangelist Church, 230 Arnold St., Hapeville, GA 30354.