The next time you drag a grocery item over the bar code scanner, remember Francis Xavier Beck Jr.
Mr. Beck, 89, of West Chester, who helped develop the checkout method that made shopping much faster, died Sunday, Dec. 20, from complications of a stroke.
Born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Mr. Beck was attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1944 when he volunteered to serve in the Navy. He was assigned to the Huntington, a Fargo-class light cruiser, and he received the American Theater Medal and the Victory Medal. He was discharged in July 1946 and returned to college.
While in the service, Mr. Beck discovered his passion for electrical engineering, said son Fran.
Mr. Beck received a bachelor's degree from RPI in 1950; married his wife, Shirley; and was hired at Radio Corp. of America in Camden. The couple settled in Woodbury before moving to Cherry Hill. He received a master's in business administration from Temple University in 1985.
While working for RCA, Mr. Beck helped develop equipment to test color TV tubes. During the 1960s, he worked on the design of equipment that monitored the operation of the ballistic missile early warning system.
Mr. Beck transferred from Camden to the RCA labs in Princeton and eventually moved to Burlington, Mass., working for Sperry Univac, his son said.
Mr. Beck was proud of developing the modern supermarket checkout stand, and he coauthored the patent for the scanning system, said his son. In 1973, one of his prototypes was donated to the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution.
Mr. Beck and his wife reared six children, four of whom were adopted.
"His family was really No. 1 in his life," said Fran Beck. Three of Mr. Beck's children were adopted from the Pearl S. Buck adoption agency Welcome House, and a fourth was adopted from the Love the Children agency, which the couple helped establish in 1978. They continued to serve on its board until it closed early this year, Fran Beck said.
In addition to his son and wife, Mr. Beck is survived by daughters Yvonne Broyan and Michele Gross; sons Theodore, Laurance, and Jonathan; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A visitation is to be on Monday, Dec. 28, from 10:30 to 11 a.m., at SS. Peter and Paul Church, 1325 Boot Rd., West Chester, to be followed by a Funeral Mass. Interment is to be at St. Agnes Cemetery, West Chester.
Donations may be made to the American Heart Association, 1617 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 700, Philadelphia 19103.