Beecher J. Skinner, Sr., age 87, of Lake Tomahawk, fulfilled his last wish by passing away peacefully in his home on May 29, 2017. His final days and moments were spent surrounded by his closest family, looking out his picture window at his bird feeders and his treasured Muskellunge Lake.
Beecher was born on March 2nd, 1930 to Hollie and Edith Skinner. His arrival marked the sixth son in that busy Skinner household, as he joined his elder brothers Harley, Clarence, Lloyd, Dale, and Malcom. He would soon be accompanied by two younger brothers, Murel and James, and at long last in 1943 his baby sister Edith (better known as Toolie) completed the family. This final tally of 8 boys and 1 girl delighted Beecher’s mother; his father was prone to jokes about falling one son short of a baseball team.
A childhood spent with his brothers at the old Burkhart School in Pine Lake led Beecher to his first job: trudging to school before anyone else arrived to kindle the stove and warm the place for the day ahead. This employment did not pay much of anything, but it did afford Beecher and his older brother Malcom the chance to bathe the building in soot when the school switched from a wood stove to a coal stove. One might assume that the Skinner boys were heroes to their classmates after the school was closed for a week of cleaning.
After his school days, Uncle Sam came calling for Beecher and he joined the Army where he served as a cook. The skills he gained towards feeding hungry troops paid dividends to friends and family throughout his life, as attested by many satisfied bellies at Christmas morning brunches, cookouts at the lake, and pots of chili served at the ice shanty.
His service to his country completed, Beecher and his brothers Malcom and Murel set off on a grand adventure to the West Coast. They drove shifts at the wheel of a 1930s Model A, crossing the continental divide on their way to Winston, Oregon where they joined their brother Dale working both logging and construction jobs. The relentless seasonal rains of the Pacific Northwest made life in the forest difficult, and the boys were all too happy to return to Wisconsin.
Beecher went to work for General Motors in Janesville for a short time, laboring in the Fisher Body plant. One day while the plant was down on a line changeover, Beecher headed back north to visit his family in Pine Lake. There he had the good fortune to meet an 18-year-old girl named Barbara Barrows. She was fresh off the Greyhound from New York, visiting her sister in the beautiful Wisconsin Northwoods. Beech and Barb remained together until his passing, after 63 years of marriage.
In the late 1950s, Beecher started his own business in Rhinelander: Skinners Radio & TV Service. For over 30 years, Beecher operated as the kind of old-fashioned TV repairman who made service calls to homes throughout the Northwoods. His brother Murel worked alongside him, handling most of the in-shop repairs while Beecher was on the road. During this time, Beech was a dedicated member of the Knights of Columbus and he took great pride in their charitable works.
In 1992, Beecher was able to retire to his second home on Muskellunge Lake. Any who knew him could attest to how passionately he enjoyed his retirement. He did precisely what he wanted to do on no one’s schedule but his own, whether it was fishing, gardening, tending the woodpile, or working on projects. He delighted in his friendships with his neighbors on the lake, both those who passed before him and those who are still around with the memories.
Back in 2010, Beecher received a diagnosis of cancer. His prognosis was not good, and at the age of 80 it was thought that he might not make it much further. He was a stubborn man with endurance to spare, and he fought his disease for seven years before he finally decided it was time to rest. This extra time he bought through his tireless fighting was spent on what he valued the most: his family (along with an awful lot of fish, several great seasons of Packer football, and even a few good Brewer games here and there).
Beecher is survived, first and foremost, by his loving wife Barb. While six of his eight siblings preceded him in death, his brother Malcom and his sister Toolie (Ken) Goldbeck are still with us. Beech and Barb’s only daughter Cathy passed away in 1972, but he is survived by his two sons Beecher Jr. (Kathy) and Kevin. Beecher leaves behind three grandchildren: Matt (Sara), Corey, and Coty. He was fortunate enough to live just a few houses down from his great-grandchildren Charlie and Natalie, and the kids and their great-grandpa brought great joy to one another.
A memorial service for Beecher will be held at the Hildebrand Funeral Home on Saturday, June 10th with visitation from noon until 2:00 PM and mass conducted Lay Minister Jim Miller, who was Beecher’s good friend and neighbor. A celebration of Beecher’s memory will take place at the Pelican Town Hall following the service.
Beecher would have wanted everyone to know that all fish featured in pictures at his memorial were caught on Gypsy Lake.
Hildebrand Funeral Home & Cremation Specialists 24 E. Davenport St Rhinelander, WI 54501 -715-365-4343. Celebrating lives & healing hearts. All are invited to light a candle, sign the guestbook, leave a photo or an online condolence at www.hildebrandrussfh.com.