One of San Manuel’s original pioneers, Mr. Bee, Irvin Waldo “Bee” Becraft, brassed out for the last time on Thursday, June 20, 2013 after a brief illness. He was 93 years old and had been in remarkable health until a short time ago. Bee was born February 24…well, maybe 25, 1920, in Frenchburg, Kentucky. The doctor who delivered him was apparently drunk and wasn’t too sure about the exact date he recorded it! He grew up in a “holler” outside of Frenchburg, the middle of five boys. Bee was a child of the Depression learning early the value of hard work and using that throughout his life. As a young adult he worked in the CCC, hoboed around the country, and learned how to live on little but to enjoy life.
When World War II started he enlisted and served honorably. His higher education at that time (one year of college) kept him stateside as a Staff Sergeant helping feed the war machine in Europe and the Pacific. During this time he met Katherine Rankin. After a whirlwind eight week engagement they were married on April Fool’s Day. Sixty-eight years later Mom still teased him about whether they were really married.
After the war Bee worked with Katherine’s father on his cotton farm in Florence for several years. He also worked combines and in the cotton gin in Coolidge. One day his brother-in-law told him of a job in the warehouse at a new mine opening in southeast Pinal County and he applied and was hired as a clerk, living in the bunkhouse for six months until the town opened. He worked at Magma for almost 30 years ultimately becoming the manager of all the Magma warehouses including Superior. Bee and the family moved into their brand new home at 106 Avenue A in San Manuel on Christmas Day, 1953. They were in the very first wave of residents and never left the area. And, yes, for a period of time the road into town WAS dirt! Bee got into a discussion with a gentleman one day who was relatively new to the area and INSISTED there had always been a paved road. Bee got the best out of his retirement having been retired longer than the almost 30 years he worked at Magma!
He worked closely with Don and Randy teaching them sporting skills, spending endless hours throwing, catching, passing, and encouraging. He never missed a game and was always his sons’ best fan. He taught the boys proper gun safety and how to use woodworking tools providing a lifetime of skills and abilities that have served their families well.
In his early youth he learned to play the guitar. Later he injured a finger in a woodworking accident and could not stop the strings anymore. So, just because he loved music, he learned to play the pedal steel guitar in his early 60s. He played so well that bands begged him to join them but he only did it for his own satisfaction, thus short circuiting a potentially great career in country western music.
Loving all sports, he was an excellent bowler and was on top teams in Tucson. However, later in his life his interest changed. Not to engage in careless understatement, but Bee LOVED golf. He played as often as he could and was a scratch golfer for years plus he shot his age well into his late seventies. For a number of years after retirement he ran the San Manuel Golf Club where he and Katherine made it into one of the best 9-hole golf courses in Arizona. He was later made a life-time member of the club and continued going every day he could until it closed. Many remember him for his excellent golf lessons to adults and youth alike, including working with the San Manuel High School Golf Team at times.
When he could no longer safely drive (91) he gave up his car and got a golf cart to drive around town. He was able to live alone until a very short time ago and you could see him tooling around town headed for Pete’s for lunch or the dollar stores for his simple needs. Many people watched out for him and, when he had problems, there were many, many phone calls to us to alert us he was stuck well after he had been helped home by willing friends.
Bee was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Katherine, a granddaughter, Carly Becraft, and three brothers, Winfred, Wendell, and Walter. He is survived by a brother, Willard (Pauline) Becraft, his sons Don Becraft and Randy (Gayle) Becraft, both of San Manuel, six grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren, and three dear sisters-in-law, Alene McCutchan, Betty Van Winkle, and Mardele Rankin.
As with his wife Katherine there will be no formal service as they requested—nay, demanded. If you have memories you want to share please email Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to 221 West Main Street, San Manuel, AZ 85631, and we will compile these and send you a copy. If you can’t help yourself and just have to give something please donate to the Salvation Army. One time during the war Bee got an unexpected leave and needed money fast. One organization that will remain unnamed refused to help him but the Salvation Army stepped in and provided $57, a lot of money then, and he never forgot their generosity. I always give to the Salvation Army in memory of Dad when they are ringing their obnoxious bells each Christmas season.
An informal open house for sharing memories will be held from 2-5 p.m., Saturday, June 29, 2013, at the San Manuel Elks Lodge, 143 Eighth Ave., San Manuel. Bee was an early member of the Elks in San Manuel. Light refreshments will be served. All are welcome.
Thank you all, Mr. Bee’s many, many friends throughout his long and happy life.