RACINE — When local dentist Bob Becker set out for a few practice swings before a round of golf near his vacation home in Hilton Head, S.C., on Sunday, he did so in the midst of a struggle to regain his game after an injury last summer.
Always holding himself to high standards in all aspects of his life and frustrated by his slow recovery, his wife, Faye, said he was beginning to see “a glimmer of hope” for his game — hopes cut short when he suddenly collapsed at the driving range and died later that day at a nearby hospital.
Faye Becker imagines that he passed after taking that great swing he had been struggling for.
“My hope is that … on the range he had the chance to hit one, at least one, really great driver golf shot that he could think to himself: ‘Good,’ ” Faye said. “He didn’t like doing things halfway and he didn’t like doing things where you weren’t striving to do your very best — and so I’m hoping he hit a really great golf shot and was feeling positive.”
A man of compassion
Becker, of Wind Point, died at age 66 on Sunday after working decades as a dentist and periodontist — the vast majority of that time around Racine.
Known as “Bob” to everyone but telemarketers, his friends and coworkers said that he showed compassion for all the people in his life, particularly to patients who couldn’t afford to pay for his services.
“He was probably the kindest and most generous person and would do anything for anyone — and did,” Faye said.
In those cases of charity, Bob Becker would give them discounted services or offer treatment for free, or even sometimes barter an exchange of services so his patients could leave with their heads held high.
“It was about allowing people to maintain their pride and their dignity,” Faye said, pausing amidst tears. “He tried to treat people like most of us would want to be treated.”
She described the “BOB” or “Bank of Bob” file she has, documenting the many compassionate gestures he did for others, from his children to the landscaper and acts that range from a loan for a car to helping someone find an attorney.
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Boss and friend
At Bob Becker’s office at 6754 Lindermann Ave., Mount Pleasant, his employees described Bob as treating them and their families as if they were his own, helping them out with anything they needed and encouraging them to grow, whether they had worked for him for 30 years or barely one year.
“He was not only a boss, but a friend and almost like family after these many years,” said Beth Nelson, a dental hygienist who worked for Becker for decades.
“I’ve never worked with someone who was so generous and honest with his patients,” said Heather Mohr, 31, a surgical assistant who has been working with Becker for about a year, going on to describe how he supported her recently as she had a child. “He’s been incredible. He’d accommodate every need, everything, which I don’t think a lot of people would do.”
In addition to being a loyal friend and compassionate person, employees and peers said Bob Becker was exceptional at his job, particularly giving patients dental implants to replace the root of a damaged tooth.
“He was all about his patients and his profession,” said Ned Murphy, a fellow dentist of Spring Dental Group in Mount Pleasant, going on to say that Becker likely did more implants than any other dentist in southeast Wisconsin.
It’s not exactly clear what caused his death, but Faye said it he likely died of complications from atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes the heart to beat irregularly. With tests showing no signs of a stroke or heart attack, she imagines that he was called to Heaven for a higher purpose.
“I am assuming that he threw a blood clot and that’s that — or the alternative is that God needed somebody to do an implant in heaven and he thought the only person who could do it right was Bob … if he’s not golfing or playing tennis, he’s doing implants in heaven.”
Faye said funeral services are pending.