John Becker, 1932-2010

Urban History Review, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

John Becker, 1932-2010


John Becker, of Becker Associates, publishers of the Urban History Review, passed away on 22 September 2010. John played a vital role in the management of this journal for almost two decades. Having helped rescue UHR in its darkest hour, he also helped it thrive. He will be sorely missed.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In its early years, the Urban History Review followed its founding editor, Alan Artibise. First produced at the National Museum of Man, as it was then called, it later moved to the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg. When Alan left Canada, Victor Russell at the City of Toronto Archives convinced the City Clerk's office to take on production and distribution of the journal. John Weaver, a historian at McMaster, became editor in 1988. John Becker entered the picture in 1991 when, during a municipal budget crisis, the Archives found it could no longer afford to manage UHR. He had already offered his services to the journal, and a contract was arranged whereby Becker Associates became its publisher. The McMaster connection was continued when geographer Richard Harris became editor in 1993. The current tradition, of having a pair of editors, one francophone and the other anglophone, was established when Robert Lewis and Michele Dagenais took over in 2002.

Each of us found working with John to be a pleasure, and not just because of the box of excellent chocolates that arrived from Becker Associates each December. John was unfailingly calm, cheerful, and good-humoured, even when he had to engage in some arm-twisting of recalcitrant reviewers. He loved the journal. He took a special interest in layout and was firmly committed to the idea that a journal in urban history should routinely include illustrations--despite the extra work and cost. In that sense, and in the respectful manner in which he dealt with editors, authors, and reviewers, he set a tone that informed the whole editorial project. The area that created the most frequent difficulty was the book review section, where we often had space to spare, and John would call to ask if we had anything on file to fill a hole. Every five years we relied on John, and Gwenne Becker, to produce the statistics required for our subvention requests to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Above all, at those stressful moments when strict deadlines loomed, we appreciated their steady support! In retrospect, perhaps most striking were those moments that should have been stressful, and were not. Together with Gwenne, and then Adam too, John seamlessly eased each of us in succession into our new responsibilities. We surely owe him more than we will ever know.

What none of us knew at first was that John himself had a McMaster connection, having worked there for awhile in the 1960s. He and a few "radical" faculty members started a university cinema club and used a neighbouring movie theatre to circumvent the Sunday "blue laws." In this and other ways he had showed a special commitment to campus life, just as he later went beyond the call of duty for this journal. In an era when universities and publishing became big business, John showed that there was still an important place for the human touch. He will be missed by everyone associated with the Urban History Review.

Richard Harris

Robert Lewis

Michele Dagenais

John Weaver

John Becker, de Becker Associates, editeurs de la Revue d'histoire urbaine, est decede le 22 Septembre 2010. John a joue un role vital dans la direction de la Revue d'histoire urbaine pendant pres de deux decennies. Ayant contribue a sauver la revue a ses heures les plus sombres, il l'a egalement aidee a s'epanouir. …

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