David Beckman

[Age 102] After World War II, Mr. Beckman took over a fountain syrup company and ran it until the 1970s.

Mr. Beckman became a snowball devotee, knowing that in Baltimore the ice must be shaved -- and never crushed.

April 26, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

David Beckman, a World War II veteran and manufacturer of fountain syrups who attributed his longevity to eating kosher, died of heart failure April 19 at Sinai Hospital. The longtime Northwest Baltimore resident was 102.

Mr. Beckman was born in Ukraine and settled in Baltimore with his family in 1906. His father, a pushcart merchant, moved the family to Hopewell, Va., on the eve of World War I, when he took a job with DuPont Co.

In 1918, the family moved to Petersburg, Va., when the elder Mr. Beckman opened a grocery store, and then back to Baltimore a few years later when he established a grocery in the 1100 block of E. Pratt St.

After completing his public school education, Mr. Beckman worked in his father's store and as a shoe salesman during the late 1920s and 1930s.

"He volunteered for the Army before World War II had broken out, and even though he was 36 and kind of old for the service, they took him immediately," said Abraham L. Adler, a Baltimore attorney and longtime friend who is Mr. Beckman's personal representative.

Mr. Beckman spent much of the war at Edgewood Arsenal, assigned to the Chemical Warfare School, and a year in Hawaii. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal for "exact performance of duty, efficiency through capacity to produce desired results" and attained the rank of master sergeant.

"After the war, he became a successful businessman, manufacturing and selling flavors to drugstore fountains, snow cone vendors and others," Mr. Adler said.

Mr. Beckman -- a snowball devotee whose father was known for the icy treats he made and sold in the grocery store -- took over State Syrups, a company founded in Baltimore in 1903 by William Carey.

"Baltimoreans like their snowballs just so. They want ice shaved by hand or electric shaving machine, and not merely crushed," Mr. Beckman told the old Sun Magazine in a 1968 interview. "Leading flavors are still cherry, grape, chocolate, root beer, strawberry, blood orange and egg custard, although a name will sell a flavor."

Mr. Beckman closed the company and retired in the 1970s.

"He was a charming and witty companion and conversationalist," Mr. Adler said. "He also was a very dapper dresser and always wore a fedora, which he didn't do for any particular religious purposes."

Mr. Beckman was a longtime active member of Beth Jacob Congregation and its brotherhood, having served on the boards of both and earned a reputation as a strict parliamentarian and employer of Robert's Rules of Order.

"Because he was an observant Jew, he was committed to keeping a kosher home, and he said there must be something to it as he had reached his 102nd birthday," Mr. Adler said. "He also had good genes, didn't smoke and I don't think did a lot of exercise.

Mr. Beckman enjoyed telling family and friends about the Japanese women in Hawaii during the war who helped him observe kosher law.

"They provided him with fresh fruit and an egg a day," Mr. Adler said.

Mr. Beckman married Vela Shalowitz in 1945. She died in 1990.

In 1996, while on a bus trip to the Catskills, he met Pearl Rosen- bloom, a widow, and since that time the couple had been inseparable, enjoying trips there and to Alaska, Florida and Atlantic City. Mr. Beckman enjoyed dancing, and playing bridge and poker, and remained vigorous until the end of his life.

"He possessed his full faculties up until approximately a week before his passing. He was still conferring with me, his banker and stockbroker on issues and finance. He was, as he said, still `looking to the future,'" Mr. Adler said.

Services were Friday.

There are no survivors.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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