Willie (Bill) Beckham, Jr wanted to fly jets. He joined the Air Force wanting to become a pilot, but during a routine eye exam it was discovered that he had no depth perception. And with that diagnosis, his dreams of being a jet pilot ended. Instead, Bill became a flight mechanic (at Vandenberg!), got his degree in aeronautical engineering, and in 1963 joined NASA during the early days of the Apollo program.
Bill stayed with NASA throughout his career – his house was filled with his Apollo and Shuttle memorabilia, awards, models, and photos - but NASA was only one part of his life. Dad was an accomplished woodworker and passed this passion on to his daughter Aimee, who is now the caretaker (and user!) of Dad’s workshop tools.
Bill loved to tell stories about his adventures – from living in Europe as a teen after WW2 when his father was an investigator for the Nuremburg courts, to the reunions with high school friends that continued up until the last few years. He was a quiet champion of children and a collector of crazy women (although he only married a couple of them). Bill was smart, kind, funny, compassionate, and a rock for all four of his kids.
Dad went to Florida for all of the Apollo launches and was frequently in California when the Shuttle program launched from there. He was proud of his work with NASA, but we imagine there was always a bit of wistfulness, watching rockets that he helped build launch into space without him aboard. We may not have ever been able to thank him enough for the gift of being our father, but we’re honored to be able to help him accomplish his lifelong wish to fly.
Fly, Dad…fly.See you on the other side of the clouds.