JENNIE THERESA KOCH BECK was born September 12, 1903, near Keystone, Iowa. Though named Johanna, from infancy on she was known as Jennie. She was the oldest of four daughters born to Arnold and Myrtle Koch.
Her father had attended Iowa State College and had been offered a position as a professor, but his fiancee preferred that he become a farmer. So he returned to Keystone and the family farm, but continued a life-long interest in education and exploring philosophical ideas. Her mother had artistic talents--painting, writing, poetry, piano playing--and she taught Jennie to play the piano.
One of Jennie's favorite youthful memories was the visit to her family of her great-uncle, Dr. Robert Koch, and the small, stuffed brown rabbit he brought as a gift to her. Dr. Koch was a renown physician in Germany who had established bacteriology as a separate science and won a Nobel prize for his discovery of the tuberculosis germ and subsequent work on the disease.
It was in this environment of the harsh realities of farm life, helping with many of the daily chores coupled with respect for education and exposure to the arts that Jennie spent her youth. Jennie became a proficient seamstress and once was asked by the Keystone school board to serve at a banquet, wearing an Indian dress and woven headband she had made. She still remembers helping a cousin Elsa Tatge with housework during her high school summer vacations and hearing Elsa say that she was the best helper she had ever had.
She graduated from high school in 1922, not only giving the valedictory speech but playing a piano solo as well. She also was chosen that year to recite "In Flander's Field" for Keystone's Memorial Day celebration. Upon graduation, she attended Iowa State Teacher's College during the summer and taught country school at Iowa Center for one year to earn money for further education. The following year she entered Iowa State College on a scholarship and became active in student life, particularly in the Wesley Foundation at the Collegiate Methodist Church where she was a student welfare officer. An honor student, she was named to Jack-O-Lantern, the junior scholastic society, in a ceremony by the campanile in the spring of 1925. She also became one of a wonderful group of 10 girls who continued their friendship for over 60 years through an active, round robin of letters and periodic reunions.
Following her sophomore year in 1925 she again became a teacher, this time teaching high school domestic science, English, and girls basketball at Otranto Station. That year she also met the brother of another college classmate, and she became Mrs. Burdette A. Beck of Belle Plaine, Iowa on June 2, 1926.
The next years were filled with the demanding life of a farm wife. In addition, she became the dedicated and sacrificing mother of seven children. Sadly, her third child, Catherine Anne, lived only eight days. Her six surviving children who are happy for this opportunity to honor her all have special memories ...
Most commonly mentioned is Mother's faith. No matter how little sleep she had, how early the hour, or how difficult the day ahead, she always began her day by sitting at the table reading her Bible. Her deep and constant faith carried through in her Christian nurturing of each child with prayers, Sunday School, and church activities for all. She became active in the Methodist Christian Women's Missionary Society in 1926 and was chairman of the Mission Commission for several years. In addition, she served on special committees, taught Sunday School and Bible School, and entertained visiting missionaries.
She believed in the enriching qualities of music and began each child's life with her singing of nursery rhymes, folk songs, and children's hymns as each was rocked to sleep. All were encouraged to sing, take piano lessons, and/or a musical instrument. The house was usually filled with some form of music.
A wonderful cook, there are pleasant memories of her breads and rolls, the roasters of spaghetti and kettles of soup, the gingerbread cream puffs pies with always flaky crusts, angel food cakes for birthdays, the bounteous feasts prepared for threshing day, and the delicious candies beautifully wrapped for Christmas gifts to neighbors and friends.
With her skill as a seamstress she somehow found time to sew many suits and dresses for her daughters.
Following her belief in the importance of education she encouraged every scholastic endeavor. All 6 children had some college experience, four at Iowa State University and two at the University of Northern Iowa. There is one graduate from each college. When financing further education for her children seemed an impossibility, she returned to college at age 47. She spent two summers of study at I.S.T.C. to become re-certified as a teacher. Then she added "full time wor