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,
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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