In the years since his passing, Steven Becker’s name has appeared in many news articles and court proceedings.
But there’s more to Becker’s story than the events leading up to – and the aftermath of – his final moments.
“Steven was just a special person,” his mother Claudine Becker said. “A lot of people would say when he walked in a room, it would just light up because of his smile and his personality. He would always liven things up.”
James and Claudine remember their son through a series of titles: family man, four-wheeler champ, a zoologist in his own right, cook (“He didn’t like anybody else’s chicken but his own,” James recalled).
But one thing stood out time after time: his empathetic nature.
“He cared deeply about the situation around the area and everything. He always told me about how the system has failed so many people out there,” James said, later adding, “He would tell me about kids not being loved properly, (that was) around the area and pretty widespread, (and) a lot of them didn’t know what love was.”
During his 35 years, Steven showed these children he cared.
“There was this one kid that he knew who went to jail, and he said that boy didn’t have anything, and if he ever got anything, his mom would steal it because she was on drugs. He said the only thing that the kid owned was a pillow, and Steven wanted to get him a pillow when he got out, but he got killed before that,” James said.
Christmas was a very special time for the Beckers, including an annual trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville for the Way of Lights, buffet and camel rides.
Mikayla Sauer, Steven’s daughter, said her dad eventually started a tradition of his own.
“He was very caring,” Sauer echoed her grandparents. “Whenever I started getting older, (he would take) all of my old toys, wrap them and give them to his friends’ kids who didn’t really get good Christmas presents.”
It wasn’t just children Steven appreciated, though.
“There was a girl that he didn’t have any romantic feelings for, but he just told us that he wanted to send her flowers because nobody had ever done anything nice for her,” James said. “So, he sent her flowers just to say, ‘You deserve these.’ He was just that kind of guy (who) always looked at the bigger picture.”
When he was not working as a salesman or doing maintenance at Becker Farm & Industrial Supplies – the family business – he was doing various labor for others, such as clearing trails on their property.
“He was small, but he was mighty!” Claudine exclaimed, later explaining, “He just did (labor for others), and he would never charge anything.”
Steven’s insistence on this led to one of the brightest moments of Mikayla’s childhood, one that stood out among the countless father-daughter skiing, fishing and shopping expeditions. In exchange for help on his property, a man gave Steven a horse.
“Whenever I was younger, I used to be obsessed with horses,” Sauer said. “Then one day I came home and he got me a horse. He was very into making me happy.”
While Steven was arguably raised to be an animal lover – his parents boarded horses when he was young and would watch him keep aquariums filled with salamanders, turtles and other critters he caught only to eventually release them – there was one animal he loved the most.
“His cats he adored. They were his babies! It was crazy!” Claudine said, his cat Garfield being his favorite.
Steven looked forward to eventually helping others – humans and animals alike – in a new way, James said.
“His actual love was for people more than the business,” James said. “He didn’t want to be in the business when we (retired), he wanted to be a border patrol man or a policeman.”
Recently, the Beckers sustained yet another blow in addition to Steven not getting to achieve these goals: the man accused of murdering Steven in January 2019 was found not guilty and was set free.
In all of this, they rely on their faith to carry them through. That, and when they look at their granddaughter’s dark hair and dimples, they see Steven come to life once again.
“We’ve still got Steven with us,” James said of Mikayla.