By Jeff Bahr, firstname.lastname@example.org
10:10 PM PST, December 19, 2012
Those who work with Lois Beckner know to avoid her if they hear Mozart's “Requiem” coming from her office.
Beckner turns on that piece of music when she's working under a deadline for the Parks & Rec Guide, the thrice-yearly brochure put out by the Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. It’s well known, Beckner says, that she's “a little grumpy if I'm playing the ‘Requiem.’ ”
But except for the duress brought on by deadlines, Beckner is a very happy person. For close to 20 years, Beckner has been cultural arts program coordinator for the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.
“I consider myself lucky to have this job,” she says. “This is like a dream job.”
A Pennsylvania native, Beckner moved to Aberdeen with her husband, Troy, and their two sons in 1987. What brought the family to Aberdeen was Troy’s job with the 452nd Ordnance Company Army Reserve, for which he served as ammunition inspector.
After Lois had become established in her job, Troy had a chance to transfer to another city, where he’d also receive a promotion. But Lois didn't want to leave Aberdeen. So he left the military, for which his wife is grateful.
Beckner is responsible for many of the classes and programs offered at the Aberdeen Recreation and Cultural Center.
“In a nutshell, what I do is research current trends in arts, crafts and leisure activities. I create the programs and find the teachers and make sure we have the equipment and the facility to hold those classes,” she said in her office at the ARCC. In addition to seeing to it that the quality of programs stays high, Beckner “just generally” promotes the arts and learning. She is also in charge of the ARCC Gallery.
Beckner is a musician and an artist herself.
The instrument she plays best is the hammered dulcimer. Even though she doesn't read music, she also plays the guitar, harmonica, fife and accordion.
When she has free time, Beckner engages in pottery, painting, sculpture, jewelry and decorative work. She also likes to play with glass. But she doesn't do glass-blowing. That, she said, is “another expensive hobby I don't need to have.”
Beckner also uses feathers, often to create wings for angels.
“In fact, yesterday I was plucking a dead goose that had died out at Wylie,” she says.
The staff at Wylie, knowing of her fondness for feathers, lets her know when a bird is available. In addition, she sometimes incorporates dog hair in her art.
Beckner said she has attention deficit disorder.
“I just get bored easily and move on to the next thing,” she said.
Then, eventually, she returns to what she started with.
Beckner feels that people in this area have no idea what they have in the ARCC.
Aberdonians have access to classes and programs that they would pay much more for in larger cities. She is amazed by “the caliber of people that are willing to share their talents.” The people who teach the classes are paid a pittance, yet they are glad to do it, Beckner said.
“I come from the East Coast, and communities of this size do not have anything near like this,” she said.
How does Beckner get people to teach classes? “I twist their arm,” she said.
She tells them, “You're really good at this. Would you mind sharing your talent?”
Many people are reluctant to get up in front of a group, but wind up liking it when they discover how relaxed the atmosphere is.
Beckner is impressed by how much people care about the community. Aberdeen is blessed, she said, to have good parks and facilities, such as Wylie Park, the Aberdeen Aquatics Center and its ice facilities, both indoor and outdoor.
Local people can even rent the Civic Arena or the Civic Theatre, she said.
“Most communities don't have stuff like that. And it's fairly affordable.”
Over the years, Beckner has taught many of the classes herself.
“Not aerobics, though,” she said.
A native of Mapletown, Pa., Beckner got her bachelor's and master's degrees from West Virginia University, both in art education.
She started with Parks, Recreation and Forestry with a part-time job in 1989. When she started, the ARCC was still in the old Monroe Junior High.
The Beckners’ two sons are 30 and 32. The younger one lives in Minneapolis, the older one in Seattle.
Beckner's tastes in music are widespread. Sometimes, at work, she listens to what co-worker Molly Taylor calls “hillbilly music.” Beckner might also listen to Jerry Garcia music. Beckner is also a fan of Celtic music. She's been actively involved in the Northeast South Dakota Celtic Faire.
Beckner's eclectic tastes extend to her office decor. Among the items on her shelves are a soft Cartman doll from “South Park” and a Van Gogh action figure. She's disappointed that the Van Gogh figure doesn’t have a removable ear.
If Beckner had a specialty, it would be teaching, she says. She's happier working at the ARCC than she would be in a school district because she's able to reach and influence more people.
She’s proud of the ARCC visual arts school, which began in September. The school is designed for two age groups — one for grades 3-6, the other for grades 7-9. Young artists learn everything, including presentation and showmanship. They're responsible for everything from publicity to choosing the food served at their reception.
For more than 20 years, Beckner has worked with ARCC supervisor David Eckert.
Once, at a conference, Beckner and Eckert took personality profiles and learned that they were complete opposites.
But they work well together, Eckert said.
“We complement each other well,” he said. “We understand each other.”
But even Eckert knows to stay away when he hears Beethoven's “Requiem.”