Melvin DeWayne Beck was born Aug. 29, 1932, in Lynch, Neb., to Fannie and Harold Beck. Melvin moved to Sunnyside, Wash., in 1950, to work at his uncle’s dairy. There he met Helen Lucille Cromar, the luckiest event in his long and full life. They were married on Sept. 19, 1952, and lived 64 years together as equal partners in all they did.
Melvin enlisted in the Navy in June 1952 and began a successful 30-year career. In 1964, the family moved to Oak Harbor, Wash., and began their 55-year run as residents there. Melvin retired from the Navy in 1982 at the rank of commander. During his Navy career, Melvin was deployed around the world while Helen ran the household at home. Together, they raised four children, in an impressive display of teamwork even at a distance and in difficult circumstances.
In retirement, Melvin and Helen decided to turn their five acres into a horse farm, which they named Crescent Harbor Farm. During the 20 years they raised thoroughbreds, 29 horses passed through the farm. Of the 24 foals born on the farm, 18 were winners, including three stakes winners. The most famous of their horses was Saratoga Passage, who was named Washington Bred Horse of the Year in 1987 and 1989. He is still the highest-ranking earner of Washington-bred thoroughbreds.
Melvin was a consummate storyteller, with an amazing ability to remember details of experiences from decades ago. One of his favorite stories was about the time that a senior officer asked whether his wife would be able to step up to an appropriate role if Melvin were to be promoted. Melvin responded with complete confidence in Helen’s capabilities by declaring strongly that she would thrive in any military social setting.
Early on in his career, Melvin learned the importance of paying attention to detail, which helped him in his Navy career and in horse breeding. When the Navy sent him to a training school in Norman, Okla., just weeks after he married Helen, Melvin traveled to Norman ahead of his beautiful bride. Attempting to surprise and impress her, Melvin rented a small house where he and two friends spent the entire day cleaning. When Helen arrived and inspected the house, she declared: “I wish the Navy would have paid someone to clean this place.”
Melvin truly was a self-made man. He grew up on a small farm in Nebraska during the Depression, when there was often not enough money to feed the kids. With Helen by his side, he became a man who could accomplish just about anything he put his mind to, whether it was going from an enlisted man in the Navy to the rank of commander, or turning five acres on Whidbey Island into a horse farm that produced a horse nominated to run in the Kentucky Derby.
Melvin passed away peacefully in his home on Dec. 15, 2019. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Helen. He is survived by his children, Robert (Irene), Dona (Scott), Michael (Ilze) and Jeffrey (Patty); brother, Ronald Beck; and sister, Hazel Grosche; and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews, and nieces.
At Melvin’s request, no service will be held. Interment at the columbarium of Maple Leaf Cemetery in Oak Harbor. Remembrances to charity of your choice.