Black and white photo of newlyweds in the car. Becky is wearing a white dress and veil, and Willard is wearing a dark suit wi
Becky ’49 and Bill Wheeler on their wedding day

Queen in whom we’re blest

One night in April 2021, we showed Becky, our mother and mother-in-law respectively, a new virtual tour of the campus. We said goodbye and left her with her able caretaker, who continued the tour with her on her computer. She loved it! As timing would have it, Becky passed away that night in her sleep — in the house she grew up in before attending Cal, becoming a newspaper reporter, and building a family. The circle was complete. We never imagined one of the last things she would do was take a virtual walk around Cal. It was a special experience to return to her past and many fond memories.

Born Dorothy Elizabeth Beck, Becky, as she was later nicknamed at Cal, was the third generation in her family to go to Cal and graduated in English in 1949. (I, her daughter Caroline, am the fourth). 

Becky liked to ride and jump horses as a teenager. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, she remembered the announcer at a horse show calling out names to “immediately report to duty.” It wasn’t much later when the Japanese students from her high school suddenly “left” — presumably sent to internment camps — cutting the student body to 125 students. She saw her friends get in buses and trains and wave goodbye, which devastated her. It was a tough time. Her father, who was on the draft board, had to choose young men he knew and notify them and their families that they were going to war, and tight finances prompted her mother to return to work as an English teacher.

At Berkeley, Becky joined the Kappa House and later became its president. She was also involved in other activities, including head vote counter for the ASUC Election Board — a foreshadowing of her continued engagement in politics. (She wrote letters to voters in the 2020 election to get out the vote.) After graduating, Becky secured a job as the society columnist at the now defunct San Francisco News. She lived with three other Berkeley alumnae and took the trolley and cable car to work. She met her future husband Bill on assignment at the Bachelors Ball. Later she covered music and TV and was a frequent radio talk show guest. She described herself as a “cheap fill” for those shows!

We frequently shared Cal stories together and sang songs no one else in our family knew. Our favorite was “Hail to California,” which made her both smile and cry. The second stanza says, “Hail to California / Queen in whom we’re blest / Spreading light and goodness / Over all the West.” Becky was our queen, and she certainly spread a lot of light.

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