“Eric knows everybody, and that’s only a slight exaggeration.” -Rita Beck.
Meet Eric B. Beck, a man who knows everyone in the Janesville (and most of the Rock County) community. 66 years old and Milton College ’73 graduate, he has been closely tied to the Rock County community all of his life, growing up in Janesville and still a current resident. Previously an employee of General Motors and Aliant Energy, Beck has spent the past 10 years in insurance at Tricor insurance, bouncing back and forth between the Beloit and Janesville offices.
Beck got the start of his career by meeting a man, and later friend, running at the YMCA where is has been heavily involved for over forty years.
“Most of my jobs have come through the (Janesville) YMCA, where I worked part-time… Informal things like that happen in a small community… When my son passed away, the turnout for th visitation was so huge. Most of the people came from the YMCA. The people that go there are so positive and trying to keep good health so the atmosphere is very different.”
Beck’s favorite aspect about the Rock County community is how tight knit and support the people living here are to one another,
“My wife and I moved into this new neighborhood (in Janesville) and this car came down the street, no muffler, all loud. He did a wide turn and knocked over my mailbox. Next thing I know this woman from across the stret comes up, ‘Do you have anything to mix it with?’ and I said, “no,” and she goes, “I’ll be right back.” And then another lady comes up with her daughter, and as I’m talking with the other lady this second woman is already working on fixing it!… That’s the way the community is. It’s amazing how helpful everyone is here.”
When asked what the biggest challenge he thought Rock County currently face, Beck sits down and asks to phone in his wife, Rita Beck, to weigh in as well.
“I can’t tell you the challenges of Rock County as a whole, but my opinion the challenges of Janesville I think part of the frustrations are with the slowness in the development of the downtown area. So when you compare Janesville downtown with Beloit downtown we fall short.”
Beck recalls the very lacking diversity of the Janesville community, but like John Scott of last’s week’s Focus-In, does not note racism as being problematic to their life or experiences growing up in the area,
“There were three Afro- American families in the ’50s in Janesville and my parents bought a farm. I went to a rural school where I was the only black kid there, but I never had any race issues… You wouldn’t think it’d be easy growing up as a minority in a mostly white community but it worked well.”
Contact the RCHS Story Squad if you have any stories you’d like to tell. Either write yours in person at our Wall Exhibit at our Janesville campus, through our website form, tagging #HistoryInFocus on your Instagram post, or by contacting LeeAnn Severson, the volunteer coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to help collect these stories as a member of Story Squad!