Gardening 07

Kathleen Mary Becker

November 16, 1931 ~ December 8, 2023 (age 92) 92 Years Old

Kathleen Becker Obituary

Kathleen ‘Kathy’ Mary Becker

November 16, 1931 – December 8, 2023

Kathleen (Kathy) Mary Burkley was born November 16, 1931 in Lakewood, Ohio to Arthur W. and Kathleen E. Burkley. She was the first of three children and had two younger brothers, Art and Lew. Kathy grew up in a musically gifted family and played piano beautifully.

Kathy graduated from Bowling Green State University, with a degree in Social Work (1954). She met Paul Smith while attending Bowling Green.

At age 22, she took her first social work job in Toledo, OH, employed by the Lucas County Child Welfare Board and Louella Cummings Home for Girls as a part-time, live-in counsellor. Kathy enjoyed her work and was good at it. During September 1954, Kathy married Paul Smith (Lakewood, OH). They lived in Toledo until September 1955, then moved to Ann Arbor, MI.

In Ann Arbor, Kathy studied graduate coursework in Social Work at the University of Michigan. In March 1960, as Kathy typed Paul's dissertation, Leslie was born. From 1960 to 1969, they moved multiple times for Paul's career: Memphis, TN ('60-'63), Reno, NV ('63-'66), Gainesville, FL ('66-'69), and Silver Spring, MD (1969-present). Spencer was born in Reno, NV in September 1964.

Kathy volunteered within the community during most of her life. While in Reno, Kathy collaborated to create the library for an elementary school on the nearby Paiute reservation. While in Gainesville, Kathy helped create Neighborhood House, a community centre for underprivileged youth in a poor neighborhood, then ran craft activities at Neighborhood House each week. In Silver Spring, she joined members of Christ Congregational Church (CCC) to found the Silver Spring Child Care Center (1971), a nonprofit pre-school, and became its first director. She also volunteered with seniors at Springvale Terrace, the Helping Hands respite program, and with Head Start children's early schooling program. At Springvale Terrace, Kathy created floral decorations for every occasion.

Kathy loved to build elaborate doll houses, for her children, grandkids, and neighbor children. Kathy was an excellent cook and set a beautiful holiday table. Her children have fond memories of her delicious pies. Kathy enjoyed organizing luncheons for her women's groups, typically making her speciality, spiced tea.

Kathy was also a frugal treasure hunter. As a newlywed, she found Fosteria crystal water goblets on clearance. The goblets were $1 each and she bought the remaining 13 goblets. Our family and guests enjoyed 'playing the rims' of those cyrstal goblets following holiday meals (creating various notes based on the volume of water in the goblet).

Kathy's life-long hobbies included sewing, cross-stitch, and working in her flower garden. She had a special fondness for hydrangeas, false sunflowers, bearded iris and– believe it or not– weeding. Kathy passed along her love of sewing to Leslie, her love of piano to Spencer, and her love of gardening to both children. Kathy also developed a great love for coloured glass, her collection included all shapes and sizes, with a preference for cobalt blue.

April 22, 1980, Kathy married fellow church and choir member, Fritz Becker. Singing in the CCC choir was her favorite choir experience. Over the years, they were involved in various musical groups, in addition to choir. Kathy was a member of a church bell group and Grace Notes, a women's singing group at Riderwood. And Fritz was lead tenor in the Old Line Four barbershop quartet for decades.

Kathy also loved dogs. They were part of her childhood family and her years with Fritz. Perky, Shortsie, Mong, and Peanut shared Kathy and Fritz's homes.

Everywhere she lived, Kathy enjoyed her connections through church groups. And she relished visits with children and grandchildren.

Kathleen is survived by her children Leslie Smith (Colin Shaw) and Spencer A. Smith; granddaughter Brooke Shaw; step-children Melodie (Charlie) Dziduch and Stephanie Becker; step-grandchildren Nicole, Amber, Kimberly, Joseph, Jonathan, Jordan, Katie, Corey, Christian, Caroline; twelve step-great-grandchildern; sisters-in-law Patricia Burkley, Toni Saunders, and Marilyn Smith; nieces, nephews, their spouses and children.

Kathleen is pre-deased by her husband, Howard (Fritz) M. Becker and his son, Jeffrey Becker; parents Arthur William Burkley and Kathleen Elizabeth (Heilman) Burkley, and brothers Arthur James Burkely and Lewis Albert Burkley.

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Memorial Service
January 18, 2024

9:30 AM
The Chapel at Riderwood Village
3140 Gracefield Road
Silver Spring, MD 20904


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