Oakhurst – Jack Becker is many things. He’s a Marine through and through. He served during World War II although he saw no action. That changed with the Korean War and the Battle of Chosin in Korea, making him one of the Chosin Frozen. Before his departure from the Oakhurst area, he belonged to Marine Corps League 1121 and loved participating in local Marine birthday dinners each year.
Jack Becker, a former Bass Lake Annex resident, is also 100 years old, having reached that pinnacle on January 20, 2022.
Marine, Woodcarver, Dancer, Mountain Man
He is also a woodcarver, the essence of a cowboy, a dancer, a master baker, a mountain man and a character in his own right.
He currently lives in Prineville, Oregon, with his daughter Nancy and her family, along with his new dog, Bea. An animal lover, he’s always been surrounded by canines.
On his birthday, Jack’s daughter Nancy Voakes prepared a small birthday party for him at home, and he thought that was the end of his celebration. During that home party, someone played the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” and Nancy turned to see her 100-year-old father up and dancing.
Nancy’s son, Kris, took charge of a bigger surprise celebration at the local golf course on the day following. Nancy knew what she needed to do to make the party complete. The highlight of the party was Jack’s dancing with his daughter and granddaughter to that same tune from the day prior. Fox News shared a clip of that historic dance.
During his younger years, he worked for the city of Los Angeles, from which he retired after 25+ years, he and his family moved from Canoga Park to the Southern California mountain community of Big Bear.
Dancing seems to have been a part of Jack’s life from his early years, as he participated in German folk dancing, but it didn’t stop there. After the passing of his first wife, he met second wife Jenny at the Big Bear Moose Hall Miner’s Dance. He’s never stopped since, except for the period he spent recovering from a broken hip in 2019. Jenny thought that would slow Jack down a bit—and it did, for a while. But he bounced back and soon enough was doing things that he shouldn’t have been able to at his age (sometimes to Jenny’s great distress).
They stayed in Big Bear for a while after their marriage, 42 years ago, and then moved to the community of Pilot Hill, outside of Placerville. From there they moved to the coastal community of Los Osos. They stayed in Los Osos for eight years, at which time they came to tiny Wishon and remained there 22 years until Jack’s move to Prineville where his daughter Nancy looks after him, when it became clear that Jenny’s own health issues would not permit her to care for him. Jenny has since returned to roots established years ago in Los Osos.
Life has not always been easy. In 2007 their Wishon home burned, and they lost everything in it, including their three dogs, Romi, Gus and Ziggy. While starting over wasn’t easy, they both felt the loss of their canine buddies was the very hardest part of the adjustment they were forced to make.
Both of them credit Oakhurst contractor Dwayne Smith as the person who stepped up and rebuilt their house for them, helping them to get back to normalcy. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t swift, but over time it happened. New dogs joined the pack—Max, Zoe and Lettie. Lettie crossed the Rainbow Bridge sometime ago. Zoe made the move to Prineville with Jack and has since passed also. Max continues his spoiled life with Jenny in Los Osos.
Although he’s slowed down since his hip surgery, it hasn’t stopped him, as the video shows. He still enjoys cooking and baking and gets frustrated when he can’t find exactly the kitchen equipment he needs.
Full disclosure. This story is personal because Jack’s wife, Jenny, and I are fast friends from our first day at Cal State LA back in 1962. We sat next to each other in the bleachers at orientation. So Jack is part of my story, too, although I’ve only known him for 40 years or so. Jenny and I, 20 years younger than Jack, have a running joke that he is likely to outlive us both.
Photos/video courtesy of Nancy Voakes and Jenny Becker.