Volunteer firefighter and Fire Prevention Officer Jerry Beck recently announced his plan to retire from South Whidbey Fire/EMS to devote more time to his business and family. In a heartfelt goodbye to the department, he noted he considers everyone at South Whidbey Fire/EMS to be a part of his family. Always a very active member, his contribution will have a lasting impact on the department.
For the past 22 years, whenever you saw a fire truck at a public event on South Whidbey Island, Jerry Beck was there. He devoted numerous hours providing services as Captain of the Clinton Station. But also, many times he was coordinating the fire department’s role at the fair, community festivals or the annual Easter egg hunt.
He also mobilized volunteers for Fire Prevention Week and the team of elves for Santa’s Sleigh. Under his direction, a motivated crew of volunteer firefighters also taught younger children how to be safe around matches and chemicals, and the older ones how to correctly start and extinguish fires.
“We did so many fire safety talks at schools,” according to Beck. “The kids always remembered ‘stop, drop and roll.’ We were teaching them important skills that hopefully they’d never need to use. But now they’re prepared, just in case of an emergency.”
Even if you’ve never met Jerry Beck, many people on South Whidbey Island probably knows where he lives. Every Christmas season, the Beck family decorates their house off Deer Lake Road in Clinton with up to 30,000 lights, creating a drive-through holiday extravaganza. There’s even a computer-operated FM stereo radio station that plays favorite carols and music of the season.
It’s not surprising he and wife Lois give this annual holiday gift to Whidbey Island. They see their lives here as a gift from God.
“We were living in Contra Costa County in California, and we made a trip to Whidbey to visit the in-laws,” he said. “We fell in love with the place immediately. To us, it was like Mayberry, complete with Andy, Opie and Aunt Bea. We wanted to move here.”
However, Beck had a thriving business as a master electrician. At that time he specialized in working with law enforcement agencies on undercover surveillance programs. He also had a home to sell, during a tight housing market. The family decided to move anyway, and that if God wanted it to happen, then it was meant to be.
Amazingly, everything fell into place. The house sold immediately and they sold their business. Just more than 30 days later, they bought a house on Whidbey Island. That was in 1994.
He had been a volunteer firefighter in California since 1981, and upon arriving on the island, he joined the South Whidbey Fire/EMS. He is still a master electrician with his own business, Jerry Beck and Company Inc.
One day he was at Langley Marina, inspecting an electrical issue on a boat. Students from a biology class were also there and recognized him right away —calling out his name and yelling to him “hey where’s your fire truck?”
“There’s a level of respect and community appreciation given to firefighters that’s both a privilege and a blessing,” said Beck. “People wave and smile alot.”
It is that community involvement, giving back, choosing to ‘make your part of the world a bit better’ that caused Beck to volunteer in the first place. “All right, it really was because you get to drive a BRT (Big Red Truck),” he added. “But I hope that there are more volunteers out there who catch that vision of community and act on it.”