JODIE GREEN had just turned 18 when she enrolled at Temple University and, with an urge to write, dropped into the office of the Temple News, the undergraduate newspaper.
"There was this guy with his feet on the desk wearing a beat-up corduroy cap that I doubted he ever took off, even in the shower," she said. "He introduced himself as Phil Beck and there was instant chemistry. He had a beautiful smile. We conversed and laughed. We genuinely loved each other. He was the love of my life."
It was not hard to love Phil Beck, who died Thursday at age 56. Friends and relatives described a man who possessed a genuine concern for others, a man of boundless energy, an eclectic interest in nearly every subject and a delight to be with.
Phillip E. Beck, who worked for several local publications as a writer and editor, starting with the Inquirer, edited books and served as president of the Philadelphia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease on his 56th birthday at his West Philadelphia home.
He was working as a baggage handler for US Airways at Philadelphia International Airport in recent years. He had not been ill and was actually planning a trip to Paris, since as an airline employee he could fly free.
Phil Beck was a man of many interests and activities. He was an outstanding and imaginative chef who would prepare elaborate meals as a member of an informal cooking club in West Philadelphia. He was a political activist, a Democratic committeeman in West Philly who went door-to-door in his district to turn out the vote. He was a sports buff who could recite scores and statistics in great detail. He also played basketball and volleyball in his youth.
For 36 years, Jodie Green said she called Phil at 12:01 a.m. on New Year's Day and at the same time on his birthday. She made the call at the customary time Thursday and got no reply.
"I knew in my gut something was wrong," she said. And she later found out her worst fears had been realized.
"We had many adventures - and misadventures," said Jodie, who works in marketing in New York City.
There was the time the creaky old Volkswagen Beetle that Phil drove caught fire in the center lanes of the Roosevelt Boulevard at 4 a.m., and they barely escaped the flames.
There was the time they got lost while driving to a restaurant in Bucks County to write a review for the Inquirer and had to ask directions at a spooky mansion right out of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. "When we knocked on the door, we expected Norman Bates to answer," she said.
Jodie and Phil went to the Inquirer while they were at Temple as editorial assistants. Phil was about three years older than Jodie, who always said if she hadn't been gay she would have married him.
They worked together on a number of features and restaurant reviews. Phil worked for the Inquirer for about four years and later the magazine Scientist and a sports publication.
When Jodie was working for Philadelphia Magazine, she broached the editors about an idea of starting a bridal magazine. Getting the go-ahead, she hired Phil and another woman, who was also gay.
"We had two lesbians and a single man putting out a bridal magazine," Jodie said. It launched in 1997 as Elegant Weddings.
Kelly Green, president of the Philadelphia League of Women Voters, met Phil in 1997 when he contributed to a charity she started in honor of her grandfather to provide meals and other resources for impoverished people.
"We were instant friends," she said. "He was my champion. He would say, 'Tell me what you need. We'll get this done.' He gave me great encouragement. He made me feel that I was going in the right direction.
"He knew a lot about everything. There was no subject or topic he couldn't talk to you about. He knew intricate details. It was like 'Jeopardy.' "
Kelly said she has a photo of Phil on the highest mast of the Gazela, the 100-year-old wooden Portuguese tall ship moored in Philly.
"Are you crazy?" she told him. "You're not the youngest there."
He became a crew member, doing everything from climbing the rigging to scrubbing the decks. He took several cruises on the ship.
"He loved the water; he loved nature," Kelly said. "He loved to have campfires on the beach.
"In the 18 years I knew him, I never heard him say a negative thing about anyone. He always focused on the good in everybody."
His stepbrother, Eoin Beck, said Phil "was one of the kindest people I ever met. It was his love of life, his energy, that drew people to him. It amazed me how many friends he had, from all walks of life. He was not one to let a friendship go. His friendships were long-lasting and very deep.
"He had a really strong sense of justice. He would stand by a co-worker or friend who was being dunned by someone else. He was passionate about helping people."
"He was an unfailingly nice guy," said Liz Spikol, a senior writer for Philadelphia Magazine. "He was always happy to see you. He was talkative, interesting and interested. It was always a pleasure to run into him."
Liz said she first met Phil in 2004 when he was editing a book for a friend. "He really liked people," she said. "He was delightful and always easy to be with."
Rabbi Yosef Perlstein, who is married to Phil's sister Ruth, and presided at Phil's funeral yesterday, said his brother-in-law was "a kind, giving type of person. He was very sociable and easy to be with. He was a very special fellow."
William K. Marimow, Inquirer editor who knew Beck when Phil worked for the Inquirer in the '80s, said Phil was "widely respected" in the newsroom. "He was an ideal colleague who loved journalism," Marimow told the Inquirer.
Phil's father, Howard Beck, a medical laboratory inspector for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, died in 2002 at age 71.
Besides his sister Ruth, Phil is survived by his mother, Arlyne Wernikoff; his stepmother, Theresa McGuire Beck; a brother, Laurence Beck; and another sister, Jacquelyne Weiss.