Southampton Town Civic Activist Hermann 'Hank' J. Beck Dies At 78 - 27 East

Southampton Town Civic Activist Hermann ‘Hank’ J. Beck Dies At 78

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Hank Beck in 2005.  PRESS FILE

Hank Beck in 2005. PRESS FILE

Hank Beck at Press Sessions event in 2019.  PRESS FILE

Hank Beck at Press Sessions event in 2019. PRESS FILE

Hank Beck

Hank Beck

Janet and Hank Beck in 1961.

Janet and Hank Beck in 1961.

authorStephen J. Kotz on Aug 19, 2020

Hermann “Hank” J. Beck, who immersed himself in the civic life of his adopted hometown of Westhampton, died on August 4 at Stony Brook University Hospital. Mr. Beck, who was 78, had suffered from thyroid cancer, said his wife, Janet Beck.

Mr. Beck, who served for many years as the chairman of CAC West, was a frequent presence at Southampton Town Hall, weighing in on issues that were important to his community.

“Out here locally, he was the guy that fought the good fight all the time,” said Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier, a close friend and neighbor of Mr. Beck’s, who credited his own entrance into politics to Mr. Beck’s enthusiasm for the civic arena.

But he added that Mr. Beck did not limit his zeal to community affairs. “I can’t think of anybody who lived life with greater joy than Hank did,” he said. “I’m going to miss him so much and miss his counsel.”

Shortly after moving to Westhampton in 1999, Mr. Beck and his wife became involved in the local Democratic Committee, turning their living room into a de facto party headquarters and performing the painstaking recordkeeping that allowed the party to build a valuable database for future campaigns.

“A lot of what is handled today by computers and things I still don’t understand was done manually by Hank and Janet,” said George Lynch, a fellow member of the Democratic Committee, who added, “Hank was a fellow with a breadth of knowledge and personal warmth that was absolutely matchless.”

“He was an encyclopedia of local knowledge, and he was an asset to the community that is going to be sorely missed,” said Craig Catalanotto, who served as co-chair of CAC West with Mr. Beck for the past year and a half.

“You didn’t always have to agree with Hank, and he didn’t always agree with you,” he said. “He enjoyed a spirited debate, but it didn’t have to be personal, and after that spirited debate, he went back to being Hank.”

Mr. Catalanotto added that he was going to ask the Town Board to honor Mr. Beck’s memory by making him the honorary chairman of CAC West in perpetuity. “It’s sad to lose Hank,” he said. “I know our CAC will never be the same.”

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman read a proclamation honoring Mr. Beck at last week’s Town Board meeting, citing his volunteerism on behalf of efforts ranging from fighting to keep the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing at Gabreski Airport to serving on the town’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

Mr. Beck was also active in the Westhampton Chamber of Commerce, serving as president for five years and appearing on WLNG for a number of years as the chamber’s spokesman. He was also a member of the Rotary Club of Westhampton, where he served as the club’s unofficial photographer, documenting club activities, according to club president James Hulme. Family members said he also helped found the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, which brings college players to the East End, where they board with local families and play against other local teams.

Mr. Beck was born on July 22, 1942, to Hermann and the former Margarete Lorenzen in Brooklyn. After attending Brooklyn Tech High School, he received a merit scholarship to Adelphi University.

On the first day of class, Mr. Beck, who owned a car, met his future wife when a mutual friend asked if he could drive them both from Queens to the Garden City campus, eliminating the need for them to take a long train ride. “We carpooled and began to date,” she said. The couple was married in Brooklyn on January 23, 1965.

Mr. Beck later received a master’s of business administration degree from St. John’s University and launched a creative, entrepreneurial career with a focus on art, photography, and graphic design. He photographed and cataloged the extensive Johnson & Johnson art collection and began a thriving graphic design business, Printable Inc., in Stamford, Connecticut.

Besides his wife, Mr. Beck is survived by his two sisters, Marguerite Beck-Rex of Washington, D.C. and Anne Buehler of Lords Valley, Pennsylvania, as well as his wife’s sisters and brothers-in-law, Susan and William Dalton and Barbara and Louis Palmieri, both of Naples, Florida, and several nieces and nephews.

Mr. Beck was cremated. A celebration of his life will be announced at a later date. The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the Westhampton Rotary Scholarship Fund in care of the Rotary Club of Westhampton, P.O. Box 124, Westhampton, New York, 11977.

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