From hayfields to Pentagon
SILVERTHORNE – Quinn Becker has difficulty sitting still.
It’s something that harks back from his childhood.
He learned to work hard, which eventually brought him from country life to a position as a three-star general in the Pentagon.
The Silverthorne resident began working in the hayfields of northern Missouri when he was 11.
“My dad always saw to it that I worked,” Becker said. “I asked him for money, and he said, “Well, you can make it.'”
Once when Becker asked his father for money, his dad instead gave him a mule and a cart,which Becker then used to haul things for people.
Another time he asked for money, his dad gave him a lawn mover.
“And one time, I asked him, and he bought me a cow,” Becker said, and laughed. “He said, “You milk the cow, and you and your mother bottle the milk and sell it.’ She was a good little cow.”
The third time was the charm – after that, Becker said, he never again asked his father for money.
Becker’s father was a country doctor – making house calls, which sometimes kept him away from home for days due to bad weather. He worked hard, Becker said.
“He had a very strong work ethic – so I learned how to work,” Becker said.
Becker’s father died in 1944, when Becker was 14. It left the family nearly destitute.
His mother took Becker and his brother to Louisiana, where she had family. The three lived with her father – and her two brothers and their wives – in one house.
“Them were tough times,” Becker said. “But it was not an unhappy time, because they were good people. And every day was a little better than the one before.”
Hard times and a good work ethic seem to have served Becker well. He exceeded in school and college. Initially, Becker said he didn’t want to become a doctor like his father, and he studied agriculture, instead.
But somewhere along the way, he changed his mind and decided he did want to be a doctor, after all.
Medical school is known for its demanding schedule, and it was particularly challenging for Becker, who was starting a family. Becker had met his wife, Marie, and they had married before he entered medical school. Their first child was born after his first semester, adding family demands to the rigor of medical school.
Money was tight, so Marie went to work as a schoolteacher and supported the family. After a few months, Becker returned to work and worked all night, every other night, while going to medical school.
“We were able to make it without any problem from then on,” he said.
In his senior year of medical school, Becker signed up for the Army’s senior medical student program, which marked the beginning of a career in the military.
The family then went to Honolulu for Becker’s internship
“Can you imagine those country kids going to Hawaii?” Becker said, and laughed.
That was just the beginning of the places they would live. Like most military families, Becker, Marie and their children moved a lot over the following years.
They moved to Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Germany, among other places.
Becker left his family at home in 1970 when he went to Vietnam as a combat surgeon and commander of 15th medical battalion.
Becker served in the Army for 32 years, during which time he rose from lieutenant to lieutenant general. By 1985, he was a three-star general – surgeon general – the highest honor in the Army medical corps.
As surgeon general for the Army, Becker worked in the Pentagon and supervised 100 Army hospitals worldwide, and their 95,000 employees. He also worked with people from all aspects of the government, including Congress.
When Becker retired from the Army at 58, he and his family moved to a farm in Maryland.
“That lasted about a year,” he said, before he got bored and went back to work again, as chief of staff at a Veterans Affairs hospital. He worked another three years before retiring a second time.
But just because he’s retired doesn’t mean Becker has slowed down.
He has become active in Habitat for Humanity – in North Carolina and in Summit County.
Becker and his wife, Marie, moved to Summit County full time four years ago.
“We really liked the people out here,” he said, adding they were drawn by the area’s active senior community.
In the winters, Becker works as a groomer at the Keystone Nordic Center. And he said he’s enjoying spending time with Marie again.
“We do almost everything together,” he said. They ski, bike, hike and square-dance – something they learned while living in North Carolina. They also try to travel “someplace unique” each year. Last year it was the Galapagos Islands, this year the couple is headed to Costa Rica.
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