Walter L. Beck, a retired insurance salesman who golfed for nearly 80 years and made seven holes in one, died Tuesday of lung cancer at his home in the Villa Nova section of Baltimore County. He was 88.
Born and raised in Garrison, he graduated from Franklin High School in 1933 and remained his class' treasurer for its annual reunions. His first job was as a laboratory technician at Procter & Gamble's old Locust Point manufacturing plant.
During World War II, he served with the Army's 101st Field Artillery Division before he transferred to the adjutant general's office of the 29th Division of the Maryland National Guard.
With the 29th Division, Mr. Beck crossed the English Channel, landed at Normandy and served with occupational forces in Germany. He attained the rank of technical sergeant before he was honorably discharged.
He returned to Baltimore County and began what became a 30-year career as an insurance agent with Quaker City Insurance Co., working in the Franklin Street office downtown. For many years, he personally called on customers to collect premiums. His firm later merged with United Insurance Co.
Before he retired in 1977, he earned a reputation as one of the firm's best sales representatives and was awarded several citations as a district salesman of the year.
"His territory was Bare Hills on the city line to Westminster," said his son, W. Lee Beck Jr., who lives in Hoboken, N.J. "There wasn't a person he couldn't and wouldn't talk to. He had great success with people and selling."
After retiring from the insurance business, Mr. Beck worked until 1985 as an administrator for Hearn & Kirkwood/Gilbert Foods, a wholesale foods distributor in Dorsey.
In retirement, Mr. Beck enjoyed golf, a game he learned as a 9-year-old caddy at the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club. He joined Rolling Road Golf Club in 1947, was a former member of its board and was active in various club committees.
"From his boyhood, he had a love of golf and played until October of last year," his son said. "He was so accurate. He got the nickname of Radar. He played straight down the middle."
From 1987 to last year, Mr. Beck worked at Hobbits Glen Golf Course in Columbia as a starter-ranger, making sure play progressed smoothly. He organized an annual employees tournament for Hobbits Glen and Fairway Hills, also in Columbia.
"I never knew a man to have enjoyed his retirement with such gusto and vigor as Walter. He worked long and hard, but he was all smiles and relaxed when he stopped work," said J. Michael Flanigan, a family friend who lives in Bolton Hill.
Mr. Beck held a four handicap for many years and shot back-to-back rounds of 76 on a single day at the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, Course Two, in Pinehurst, N.C.
In 1988, when he was 73, he shot his age at Rolling Road. He played his final four holes in October at Capon Springs, W.Va.
"He had a passion for the game. He loved to play golf because it was a test of his mettle. He didn't see golf as a source of social advancement," Mr. Flanigan said.
A longtime resident of the Pikesville area, Mr. Beck served as the head of Community on Patrol for the Villa Nova Association. He recruited volunteers, organized their schedules and drove on security patrols, work that earned him a volunteer service award from Baltimore County in 2001.
Services will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday at Eckhardt Funeral Chapel, 11605 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills.
In addition to his son, Mr. Beck is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Mary Louise Waggaman; a brother, Franklin Beck of Baltimore; and two sisters, Helen Foley of Westminster and Dorothy Higgs of Baltimore.
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