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My Neighbor, Mr. Beck

In honor of Grandparent's Week, I want to stress the importance of grandparent-like figures, and share with you all one of my own. He was like my grandfather in the sense that he had about 83 years on me. Yet, age didn't keep me from thinking of him as anything less than my best friend.


Growing up, my dad was gone over the weekdays, having to travel to New Jersey and DC for work. This meant my mom had the pleasure of raising us 6 kids (ages 2-8.. YIKES).

In 1996, we moved from McLean, VA to to State College, PA. My mom had heard that there was a widower, living across the street of our Kennard Road home. One day after dinner, she instructed my brother, Joe and me to take dinner to him. That's when we first met Mr. Beck.

The next day, Mr. Beck came over to return our Tupperware. Upon opening the door, he was welcomed into our home, a home you can LOOSLY describe as "controlled" chaotic. Mr. Beck immediately exclaimed, “Oh my lands, Mauvette! What can I help you with?” What a loaded question that was! Everyday after that, Mr. Beck was at our house helping us (with piano lessons, homework, soccer, gymnastics, fencing, etc., etc. etc.).

Eventually, Mr. Beck became a fatherly figure. He watched me while my siblings were at school, comforted me at night when my nightmares kept me awake and gave up his wheelchair so that I could get a few laps. He was the first person to ever let me take pictures with his camera. I never thought there would be a day where I would not have Mr. Beck. Until one night in August, my mom came home and informed us of his death. After his death, I began to regret the lost time I missed with him. I never felt I reciprocated the love he gave me everyday. When he died, a mixture of loss, guilt and emptiness overwhelmed me. The night of his funeral, I stayed in our cedar closet and cried myself to sleep.

The next days were spent sorting through his hundreds of pictures he had taken of my family. I never understood why he brought his camera with him everywhere. I still don't know his reasoning, but he has given me a reason to now do the same. His pictures brought me joy and lifetime memories to remember him by. I thank Mr. Beck for showing me the importance of photography and videography. More importantly, I thank him for teaching me how to serve others selflessly.

I know that a neighbors like Mr. Beck are few and far between, but I can only hope that I have a "Mr. Beck" across the street from me one day.


The short film below is based on the story of Mr. Beck and my friendship; the cross-generational relationship that still influences me today. Em, and his late wife, Catherine "Kay" were the "Mr. Becks" to my cousins (the O'Dowd family). So, when recreating this story, I asked for their help.

It seemed like a great idea! The O'Dowd children would "play the role" of me and my siblings, and Em would "play the role" of Mr. Beck. While I went into shooting days with a preconceived idea of how I would tell my story, my mind quickly changed, noticing that this was their story that needed to be told. They didn't need to play anyone's role, but their own.


This short is made in memory of our beloved neighbors, Mr. Beckford Coon and Mr. Emery Kleinosky.


Write a letter to someone important in you life,


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