MANALAPAN – Wendel Becker, 88, who moved to Manalapan in 1968 and was involved with youth sports in the community for more than 40 years, died at home on May 5 after a battle with cancer.
Becker leaves an impressive legacy of working with young people in the community and as his son, Peter, said, “My dad always said that if he could keep one kid from going bad, it was worth it.”
But Becker, who worked as a warehouse manager, did much more than just keep young people from going bad. He remained active from the time he moved his family to Manalapan in 1968, through 2009, when he was still umpiring. His initial involvement was as an umpire in the Manalapan Little League.
Peter Becker said his father soon realized there was no organized baseball team in Manalapan for teenagers who aged out of Little League. So, in 1972, Becker started a Manalapan team in the Ed Carleton League for players between the ages of 15 and 18. He served on the league’s Board of Directors for 25 years.
In 1973 or 1974, Becker started a Manalapan team in the Jersey Shore Baseball League for players age 18 and over. Becker was playing on that team in his 50’s, his son said.
According to an obituary from the Higgins Memorial Home, Freehold, Becker was a native of Philadelphia. His family said he had a love of baseball that lasted his entire life. He coached, umpired and played baseball for his LOMA team of Fairmont Park in Philadelphia.
From 1988-96, Becker was a coach with the Manalapan High School baseball team, working with the Braves’ head coach, Juan Perez.
Peter Becker said his father was a founder of the Catholic Youth Organization at St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, Manalapan.
Becker’s community involvement was recognized as he was named Man of the Year by the Township Committee, the Manalapan Jaycees and the Knights of Columbus of Manalapan-Englishtown.
In recognition of his work on behalf of the high school, Becker was inducted into the Manalapan High School Hall of Fame in 2000. The snack stand at the Braves’ football stadium was named in his honor to commemorate his position as a founding member of the Manalapan High School Booster Club and the 40 years he spent on the club’s Executive Board.
Peter Becker said his family is proud of their father’s involvement with the high school. In fact, he said, there was a Becker attending Manalapan High School from the day it opened in 1972 until Peter’s son, Jake, graduated in 2016.
“My dad had an awesome life. He did everything he wanted to do. My dad was so active that the hardest part was the last two or three years when he was not able to do everything he was used to doing. He just loved sports and kids,” his son said.
Wendel Becker was inducted into the Manalapan Township Recreation Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 1979. In addition to his commitment to youth sports, Becker was active in the St. Thomas More parish, serving as a trustee. He was a Past Grand Knight of Knights of Columbus Council No. 5903, Englishtown, and Past Faithful Navigator of Msgr. Kivelitz General Assembly, 4th Degree Knights of Columbus.
Becker was predeceased by two sons, Wendelin Jr. and Richard Becker.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Dolores; two sons, Paul and former wife Bette, and Peter and wife JoAnn; two daughters, Dolores and her husband Thomas Farese, and Liz and her husband Gary Higley; and daughter-in-law LuAnn Becker. He is also survived by 16 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
A Funeral Liturgy was held on May 12 at St. Thomas More. Interment followed at Old Tennent Cemetery, Manalapan.
Donations may be made to the Manalapan High School Scholarship Fund for a perpetual scholarship to be awarded in Becker and his sons’ honor.