Rhoda Becker’s memory lives on in Flower Hill

Rhoda Becker’s memory lives on in Flower Hill
Rhoda Becker's family and local officials stand around the crepe myrtle tree dedicated in her memory. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

Rhoda Becker, a strong-willed environmentalist dedicated to her village of Flower Hill, died on Feb. 7 at the age of 88.

Although her physical presence is no longer in the community, her memory will continue to live on in the form of a tree which her daughter Betsy Becker called a “dedication to her memory so she can oversee from above.”

In a celebration Friday honoring Flower Hill’s 10th anniversary of being designated a tree city, the village dedicated a crepe myrtle tree to Becker which will flower in pink, red and purple hues. It was planted centrally behind two benches also dedicated to the woman who devoted herself to her village.

“In the shade of these majestic giants and the whisper of their leaves, we find inspiration,” Mayor Randall Rosenbaum said. “Trees are silent witnesses to history, standing tall for generations, providing shelter, sustenance and oxygen – the very breath of life.”

Village Administrator Ronnie Shatzkamer said dedicating a tree to Becker was fitting for the early environmentalist, who founded multiple environmental initiatives in the village and beyond.

A 70-year resident of Flower Hill, Becker dedicated much of her work to the village she called home. Shatzkamer said Becker was an integral component of the village throughout her decades in the community.

Becker was a member of the village’s Board of Trustees from 1973 through 1988, where she became the first and only woman to serve as its deputy mayor. She also founded the village’s Board of Ethics and its Landmark Commission.

Becker went on to work in the Nassau County Clerk’s office, a job she continued into her 80s.

Her penultimate role in the village was as its first historian. Her daughter Barbara Gardner recounted the days she helped her mother sort through her historian documents.

“She had me line up all the papers and I said, ‘Which way do you want them? Chronological, reverse chronological?’” Gardner said. “[My mother responded] ‘Chronological is fine.’”

Those memories came up once again on her drive to the dedication, as she pointed out to her husband some autobody shops along Middle Neck Road that were once where the trolley was housed, something she learned during her time helping her mother.

Her daughters described their late mother as a force of nature who was strong in her beliefs, took control of most any task and never accepted no for an answer.

Gardner described a moment of gardening with her father and her mother’s specific request that every planting be eight inches apart.

She stretched out her hand, with her thumb and pinky extended out and her three middle fingers curled under, to show the exact length of eight inches from her thumb to pinky. Gardner said this was the precise distance her mom wanted between each of her plantings.

“You knew exactly what she wanted because she was always very specific,” Gardner said. “Very detail-oriented, very loving.”

Becker’s dedication to the village continued up until a few weeks before her death as she consistently attended meetings and offered her expertise and knowledge on a diverse array of village topics.

Shatzkamer said Becker was not only a friend of the village, but also a friend of hers whose memory will continue to live on in the village she called home.

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