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Who would believe it but Joe Becker turned 93 on March 17th. As a tribute to the person who put sailing and Catalina yachts on the map in Oklahoma and the lower Midwest, over 50 of his family, friends and sailing competitors celebrated his birthday here in Tulsa, OK.

To top off the party, Frank and Jean Butler flew in from California and Ed and Lois Webb came down from Wichita. Frank was just a fledgling boat builder in the 1960’s when Joe, a seasoned Snipe sailor and proprietor of the new Tulsa Sailcraft discovered the Catalina 22. These two guys fueled each other’s success with Frank designing and building an ideal racer/ cruiser and Joe promoting it and populating numerous inland lakes with fleets.

Joe had a long Luff Affair with the everpresent #4747 at C22 Nationals for over 20 years. He was the third National Champion, with back-to-back wins in 1975 and 1976. He introduced the boat to hundreds of local sailors, including class champions Steve Snider (1989), Roger Kerr (1993) and Harvey Baker (1999). Even J-24 sailor Ed Webb (Action Marine in Wichita, KS) was influenced by Joe’s C22 advocacy by helping populate regional C22 fleets and sailing his boat World’s Largest Prairie Dog to the championship in 1986.

The weather was great, and so was the party. Joe’s former Nationals crews Mark and Nancy Lobo (1990, 1991) and Steve Horn (1993 thru 1997 and 1999) were there to help Joe stay on course while a raft of others honored his long history at the helm. Steve had logged the most races with Joe, and continued to crew for “Uncle Joe” until the day came just two years ago when Joe hauled out Luff Affair from Windycrest for the last time. Steve had the greatest respect for Joe’s habit of sharing everything he knew about going fast with newer members of Fleet 11, while being frustrated in failing to get Joe to quit climbing the mast at 80+ years to clear cobwebs from the spar fly.

Many other friends told stories about Joe and what an influence he was on sailing and instrumental in the formation of all of the sailing clubs in the area. There’s not a sailor or especially Catalina owner who hasn’t heard the name Joe Becker.

A trivia contest was held to see who owned the most Catalinas. Ron Reese proudly claimed the top spot with 10. Dan Pickard (non Catalina sailor) had spent the most money at Tulsa Sailcraft; Ed Webb acknowledged that his goal in the C22 was to beat Joe for Class Champion, and Ron Carter’s father had known Joe going back to Dallas in the early 50’s. Everyone had an opportunity to visit with Joe and his wife Gerry and reminisce about travels all over the country, hundreds of races and just having fun over the years.

Joe plans to attend Frank Butler’s 93rd birthday too, but we have about 10 years to go. We believe that Joe will be there!!!!

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Ed and Lois Webb and Frank and Jean Butler
at Joe Becker’s birthday party

(L to R Seated): Gerry Becker, Steve Horn,
Joe Becker. (Standing): Nancy and Mark Lobo.
Photos furnished by Mark Lobo.

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