In Memoriam John Wellman Becker, 94 March 11, 1927 – December 23, 2021

In Memoriam

John Wellman Becker, 94

March 11, 1927 – December 23, 2021

John W. Becker

COOPERSTOWN – John Wellman Becker, 94 of Cranberry Township, PA, died peacefully December 23rd, 2021 at UPMC Passavan Hospital in McCandless PA. He was born March 11, 1927 in Cooperstown NY to Clyde S. Becker, Sr. and Laura Green Becker.

John’s childhood was marked by an early love of music. He studied piano with several teachers and by high school he was accompanying public events all over Cooperstown. John enlisted in the US Navy in 1948, serving on the U.S.S. Cascade in Japan. Returning to Otsego County after his tour, John earned a BA in business administration from Hartwick College. Moving to New York City to work at The International Paper Company, he studied organ with Searle Wright. At his teacher’s suggestion, and somewhat to his father’s alarm, he left I.P. to earn a Master’s of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary and in 1959-1960 he studied organ with Helmut Walcha at the Hochschule fur Musik, Frankfurt/Main. Surely, the world is richer for this choice.

John shared his gifts as organist and choir master at Grace Lutheran Church, Astoria, Queens; Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Buffalo, NY; and Rye Presbyterian Church, Rye, NY. In 1974, he became Secretary for Church Music and the Arts in the national offices of the Lutheran Church in America. John served on the team that produced the Lutheran Book of Worship which appeared in church pews nationwide in 1978 and to which he contributed hymn settings and arrangements of service music.

John moved to Pittsburgh upon his retirement in 1988. In Western Pennsylvania he was best known as the Founding Director of the Pittsburgh Compline Choir, which continues to sing Compline on Sunday evenings in Heinz Chapel, and for whom he composed countless pieces for organ and voice. Many of these works are published by G.I.A. or Morningstar Music Publishers.

John loved technology and the ways in which it connected him to others. When the internet was new, John volunteered as an online tutor for learners of English. More recently, he dove into genealogy research, back in time to Rotterdam in the 1600s, and forward to a rich network of living, newly-discovered cousins.

John embodied many of the qualities he valued in others: a good sense of humor, honesty of spirit, and the ability to love and be loved. His love for humankind radiated outward and supported those around him.

John is survived by his wife of 63 years the Reverend Ruth Bosch Becker; son the Reverend Frederick Becker; daughters Susan (Peter Aziz) and Margaret (Kim Strommen); five grandchildren, and dozens of nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews. He was predeceased by parents, Clyde Sr, and Laura Becker, and brother, Clyde Jr (“Beck”), sister-in-law, Harriet, and niece, Gail Monington.

An in-person memorial mass is planned for Saturday, January 8 at 11:00 am at Calvary Episcopal Church, 315 Shady Ave, Pittsburgh, PA. There will be a reception afterwards. Those who attend are asked to practice social distancing and wear a mask while indoors. The service will also be offered as a live stream. Find details about the streaming option at calvarypgh.org. A private burial is being planned.

Gifts in John’s memory may be made to the Friends of Music at Calvary Episcopal Church.


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