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William C. Beck 

 

 

Sgt. William C. "Bill" Beck, Company A, 702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils, was the last survivor of the crew of Rollin' Rhino.  S/Sgt. Mark Larkin was Tank Commander, as well as Platoon Sergeant.  Cpl. William Beck was the Gunner.  Pvt. Jack Duggan was the Loader, for the 75mm cannon.  Tech Sergeant Joe De Laurentis was the Driver, and Pvt. James J. Tondreau was the Assistant Driver/Bow Gunner.  Corporal Beck went on to later be promoted to sergeant, and took command of his own tank crew.  Sgt. Beck was a quiet, friendly guy who got along with everyone, and in battle he never wavered in the face of the enemy, and always was a man that his comrades could depend upon when the going got bad.  His best friend, Joe De Laurentis came from the same North Philly neighborhood as Bill.  Joe was tragically killed in battle, but his buddy Bill never forgot him, nor quit missing him.

 

Bill Beck & Grandson Visiting Joe De Laurentis' Grave

(Photo Courtesy Of Lela Eitel And The Beck Family)

 

From his obituary: William C. "Bud" Beck, 84, of Mayfair, a typesetter for forty years, died of heart failure August 12, 2006 at Vitas Hospice in Nazareth Hospital.  Bill was born and raised in North Philadelphia.  Bill Beck graduated in 1940 from Roman Catholic High School, where he was on the track team.  He remained a loyal alum for the rest of his life.

 

Bill Beck was eager to fight in World War II.  He tried to join the Marines but was rejected because of a heart murmur.  The determined young man went to a doctor, got a clean bill of health, and in 1943 joined the Army.  On April 11, 1945, when many concentration camp victims were being liberated and German soldiers were beginning to surrender, Mr. Beck was wounded in one leg when the enemy blew up his tank, his son William said.  He was awarded the Purple Heart.

 

After the war, Mr. Beck charmed his sweetheart from North Philadelphia, Catherine McGrath.  He once said to his future bride, "I have something for your hand" - and gave her a pair of gloves. They married in 1947 and raised eight children.  "There was a lot of joy in our tiny three-bedroom row house," his son Michael said. "My parents played in a card club for more than half a century, and we always heard laughter coming from that room."

 

Mr. Beck was a typesetter for Typographic Services in Center City for 40 years. He set type the old-fashioned way, with a stick and metal letters, standing up for eight hours a day.  Every summer, Mr. Beck and his brother piled all the children into a car and the back of a pickup truck and headed for the Jersey Shore.  When he retired in 1987, he took a part-time job stocking shelves at Sears and continued working as a Democratic committeeman in Northeast Philadelphia.

 

After his children were grown, Mr. Beck said the rosary while sitting in a rocker at night in the back room of his Mayfair home - the room where his five boys had slept. His many rosaries hung from a lamp in the room.

 

"As death neared, I asked my father if he had any regrets," Michael Beck said. "He said he did not accomplish much in life. I reminded him of what he did do... how much we love him... how he should be proud."

 

In addition to his wife and sons, Mr. Beck is survived by sons Francis, Thomas and Timothy; daughters Eileen Keefe, Marguerite Roche and Patricia Mastroni; 16 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and one sister.

 

Burial will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 7, 2006 in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

 

Donations may be made to Roman Catholic High School, 301 N. Broad St., Philadelphia 19107.

 

 

(Photo Courtesy Of The Beck Family)

 

Editor's Note: I strongly and respectfully disagree with my friend Bill Beck about him not accomplishing much in life.  He served our nation in time of war bravely and with utmost honor; and he kept men alive on the battlefield that may have died without his expertise and courage.  Those men lived to come home and raise families.  He worked hard his whole life and raised a decent, loving family.  Last but not least, he remained true to God, himself and his friends.  The men of the 702nd Tank Battalion will miss his ever-present smile at the reunions.  They will remember him in long-ago battles, and will never forget him.  May he rest in peace, his battles are done.  Thanks Bill!  Roll On Red Devil!  We were proud to call you friend, and salute you!

 

 

 

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