Jan 28, 2008
Fr. Becker wasn't just a beloved high school English teacher and inveterate punster. He was also, for all intents and purposes, my first journalistic editor. At the monthly high school paper The Round-Up (now in an online version), for which he served as sage advisor, I covered the school's theater department (even for shows I was working on), started a pretentious literary supplement with poems and short stories, and wrote features and editorials about faculty and students (I also "covered" Brophy's football games without bothering to attend them, which in turn led to the only time I was almost beat up for something I wrote).
As both a teacher and advisor, Fr. Becker was a gnomic, solitary figure with a squinting smile and quietly exacting standards. He once glimpsed the copy of Brideshead Revisited I toted around most of my sophomore year and declared, "I knew there was something I liked about you, Kendt." He elaborated: "That's the best novel in the English language." The best novel "in the American language," he added, was Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, which I promptly and gratefully devoured.
I cannot lay my disgraceful love of punning entirely at Fr. Becker's feet, but I would remiss in memorializing him without mentioning his most-repeated signature phrase. It was typically delivered as a deadpan reply to a query from a student along the lines of, "Would you like me to turn it in on Friday?"
Fr. Becker would say, without a trace of a wink but with a certain twinkle behind the eye: "I'd be like a firefly in the rain."
It was left to the attentive student to do a double-take and inquire what Fr. Becker meant (I knew of a few students who were too intimidated or baffled to ask, thus depriving themselves of the punchline).
The priest's reply happens to sum up how I feel now, looking back fondly on him and his idiosyncratic tutelage: "De-lighted."
UPDATE: My ever-sensitive iPod just played one of Fr. Becker's favorite songs.
Posted by Rob Weinert-Kendt at 1:07 PM