Family, Friends Gather To Mark The Legacy Of Late Peoria Developer Ray Becker
A new granite sign at the corner of Fulton and Jefferson recognizes G. Raymond Becker, the man who built Peoria's tallest buildings.
Becker died last May at age 89. Family and friends of the late Peoria developer turned out Sunday for the dedication of a granite plaque set in his honor outside the Twin Towers buildings.
Local construction businessman and philanthropist Wayne Baum remembered his friend.
"He changed the skyline of Peoria. (He) took risks when everybody else was ready to turn the lights out," Baum said. "So I was very privileged to know him."
Kenny Baum remembered Becker as a quiet man who got things done, and not only big projects. He said it's the little things that he remembers about Becker, like the time he went to buy Baum's brother a new pair of shoes to replace his holey work boots before the pair went to meet a client.
"Those were just the little things that Ray did. He did a lot of big things, but so many little things that people will never really know," Kenny Baum said. "So I am really proud and pleased to know him. And I think he taught me some lessons in life that will stay with me."
Peoria car salesman John Bearce remembered when Becker recruited him to serve on the Eureka College board.
"He called me one day and he says, 'John, I'd like for you to be vice chairman of board of Eureka College'. I said, 'Raymond, I got two years of college in the Marine Corps. I never graduated.' He said, 'Neither did I. We'll be the only two people on the board who haven't gone to college,'" Bearce said. "And I thought, why the devil do you want me? He said 'to talk." He never wanted to talk."
When they arrived to the board, Bearce said Eureka College was nine months behind on its electric bill. He said Becker "single-handedly" saved the college.
In addition to Eureka College, Becker was also active with the Bradley University Advisory Board and Easterseals.
But the Twin Towers remain a defining part of his legacy. Acquiring the property to construct the 29-story buildings was a challenge. Longtime Twin Towers resident Mary Jo Papich recalled a headline in the Peoria Journal Star declared the project dead at one point when it hit a roadblock.
"He would not take no for an answer," Papich said.
The first residents moved into the towers in 1984.