Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Karl Wilhelm Beck

Karl Beck built a successful life around a disability

CLEARWATER — With his clean-cut good looks and a soothing voice, Karl Beck could almost have passed for a quieter version of Cary Grant.

Wheelchair basketball was another story. Mr. Beck, a 7-footer, allowed no easy buckets. He dominated the paint. He had the killer instinct.

Off the court, Mr. Beck used that intensity to learn. At the Braun Corp., where he worked for 32 years, he inhaled his company's latest innovations in conversion vans for people with disabilities. Then he walked customers through the steps of selecting and financing the right vehicle. It was a complicated task.

The company made Mr. Beck its Florida sales director.

Mr. Beck, 56, died May 19 after his van veered off U.S. 19 and flipped. Police do not know whether the accident or a prior medical event caused his death.

"He wasn't a high-pressure salesperson. He just helped them make the right choice," said Dick Scheffer, a division manager at Braun. Mr. Beck stayed abreast of improvements in a column he wrote for New Mobility, a bi-monthly trade magazine.

"Karl was in a wheelchair himself, so that right there gave a lot of credibility to someone newly injured," Scheffer said. And with his height, "He would look the average person in the eye."

Mr. Beck came to the United States at age 2 from Germany, and grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind. At 14, he sustained an injury to his spine during a medical procedure.

Mr. Beck didn't dwell on his injury. He graduated from Purdue University. He played and coached wheelchair basketball for years. After moving to Largo in 1977, he helped judge a "Ms. Wheelchair Florida" contest and served on a state advisory commission.

"The disability was never a focus," said Victoria Beck, his wife. "It was simply there, and he built his life around it."

She met her future husband in 1980, in a fit of frustration. The hand controls she needed to drive her vehicle had been installed upside down.

When she met Mr. Beck, she recalled, "I just went, 'Oh my goodness.' "

He was conservative. Most days, it was either blue or gray slacks. He dogged his son, Michael, if his grades slipped, but also took him to baseball and basketball games — then attended Michael's own basketball games in high school and college.

"A lot of times, people ask me, 'What's it like to have a father with a disability?' " said Michael Beck, 24. "I'd say I had a great father, whereas a lot of my friends had able-bodied fathers who weren't necessarily around for them in the same way."

His unexpected death has hit the family hard. "I just leaned on him," his wife said. "I just knew he would always be there."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

. BIOGRAPHY

Karl Wilhelm Beck

Born: May 22, 1952.

Died: May 19, 2009.

Survivors: wife, Victoria; son, Michael; brother, Dennis and his wife, Melodie; sister, Helga and her husband, Jess Beltz; several nieces and nephews.

Service: 4 p.m. today; Episco­­pal Church of the Ascension, 701 Orange Ave., Clearwater.

Karl Beck built a successful life around a disability 05/27/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 6:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Hard to believe NFL overtime change is about player safety

    Bucs

    If someone's house was engulfed in flames, would you hand him a fire extinguisher?

    Of course not.

    Fans await the beginning of overtime between the Patriots and Falcons in Super Bowl LI in February. [Associated Press]
  2. Winning high school essays urge balance in U.S. foreign, domestic spending

    K12

    Three winners were selected by a panel of judges from among 250 entrants to receive a $1,200 scholarship in the R.F. "Red" Pittman Tampa Tribune Scholars essay contest.

  3. Tampa Tribune scholarships inspire students to keep digging for facts

    College

    TAMPA

    When the Tampa Tribune launched a scholarship for Hillsborough County's top high school seniors more than 50 years ago, no one could have guessed it would one day be turned over to the newspaper's rival, now called the Tampa Bay Times.

  4. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel

    Business

    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.

  5. Photos of the week: 20 great images from around the globe

    World

    This week's collection of the most interesting photos from around the world features a silhouetted surfer in France, images of joy and grief from England, a massive landslide in California, a life rescued and a life lost at sea, an image from the final performance of "the greatest show on Earth" and, just for kicks, a …

    BIARRITZ, FRANCE - MAY 24:  Guillermo Satt of Chile in action whilst competing in the Men's Qualifying Round 2 during day five of the ISA World Surfing Games 2017 at Grande Plage  on May 24, 2017 in Biarritz, France.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)