On Tuesday, April 30, 2013, the hospitality industry and HFTP shined a bit less brightly. Our 1998-1999 HFTP Global Past President, Fred Beck, CHAE after fighting a valiant fight, succumbed to cancer. For those lucky enough to know Fred personally, my guess is that your life was enhanced by being around him. For those of you who are active in HFTP and enjoy what we are today, your membership is enhanced because of his service.
Fred joined HFTP (then the National Association of Hospitality Accountants) as a very young man. During his 40 years of HFTP membership, he served on many committees, task forces, office moves, and even governed during the then contentious name change to our current HFTP. These were very turbulent times in our association history and as Global Past President Wendy Zurstadt, CPA, CHAE said, “Fred was always the voice of reason.”
When I first became CEO, Fred was on the Executive Committee. It was a time of great change during his five year term. In just a few short years, HFTP grew by about 30 percent, changed its name from the International Association of Hospitality Accountants (IAHA) to HFTP, moved our headquarters, changed our association management system from an old IBM System 36 to a Windows based product and started our first web site, which made us one of the first associations in the world to adapt the World Wide Web as a mechanism for communicating with its membership. I will never forget the board of directors meeting where we debated the issue of purchasing Internet access for all of our chapters and building a web site. One of our directors banged his fist on the table and said, “We cannot do that! This Internet thing is just a fad and a waste of money!” Fred, who was not presiding, very diplomatically proceeded to convince the Board that this was a strategic decision that he was convinced we needed to make. And we did! You can actually still see that web site here.
Fred was always very well dressed and distinguished looking. During his presidency, HFTP was first starting to expand globally. Fred and I traveled to Nice, France to attend a competing hospitality technology conference (which has since gone out of business). During the visit, one of our colleagues became very ill with stomach flu, so Fred volunteered to venture out with me to visit a French speaking pharmacy for some medication. Of course, neither of us spoke a bit of French and I still laugh when I think about distinguished Fred miming being sick to his stomach and making funny sounds with several French women giggling behind the register… who then spoke perfect English to us.
Fred was always dedicated to HFTP, but he was also dedicated to his family. During his presidency we would make appointments to talk about HFTP business. Normally, these would be at 9:00 p.m. at night. Why? Because he went home from work, had dinner with his family and then did his volunteer work.
People who know me in the industry know that I love HFTP and will either retire or get “asked to leave.” With that said, I did almost quit once…
Luckily for me, it was during Fred’s term. In addition to being my boss, Fred was also a great mentor. My issue, which was really more of a young ego thing than a problem, was still considered very carefully by Fred. We talked over a week’s time and of course, his mentoring brought me to my senses.
At HFTP’s 2011 Annual Convention in Atlanta, Fred and I were talking about some of the things that had happened and all the success that the association has had due to our members’ good efforts. During that conversation, he kindly thanked me for allowing him the chance to convince me to stay with HFTP. Of course, it is me who owed him the great debt, but Fred was too much of a gentleman to ever broach that topic!
Michael Horrocks, CHAE, another Global Past President, who if I remember correctly was Fred’s original member sponsor, is the one who notified me via e-mail that Fred had passed away. I know that both of us needed the technology and more than a few minutes to think about what Fred meant to us… it was such a sad moment. During my professional career to date, I have only had a few other moments like today and they are always painful when you lose someone whom you care about. To name a couple, one was when our beloved HFTP Global Past President Terri Rubin Bartello passed away and another was when my fellow Paragon Award winner Stephen Doherty, CHAE, CHTP passed.
Upon reflection, I think that Global Past President Agnes DeFranco, CHAE said it best when talking about Fred, “Heaven gained another angel yesterday who is now watching over his loved ones.” Fred passed away as a loved, respected and admired father. He touched many people in a positive manner and made a difference in the world. What more could a person want to accomplish?
Because of my Christian Faith, I believe that good people like Fred, Terri and Stephen go to heaven. Knowing Fred, he is smiling down upon us and trying his best to help Terri and Stephen organize all of the hospitality finance and technology professionals up there into the HFTP-Heavenly Chapter. May they all rest in peace.
Details regarding the memorial service for Fred Beck are below. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to www.youcaring.com/beck
Saturday, May 4 at 4:00 p.m.
Johns Creek Baptist Church Chapel
6910 McGinnis Ferry Rd
Alpharetta, GA 30005
Reception immediately following
Frank Wolfe, CAE is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) and an inductee into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame. He has been with HFTP since March 1991. Follow him on Twitter @frankwolfe.