Donald Van Beck - US Army Veteran - Korean War - Tavares, FL
After moving to Lake County in 2004, Mr. Van Beck raised $525,000 and transformed an underutilized city park in Leesburg into a beautiful memorial to area veterans. He added a monument to honor Korean War Veterans and a Huey helicopter to honor Vietnam Veterans, whose service was never appreciated in real time. Mr. Van Beck’s efforts began in earnest in 2008, and the dedication of the Huey helicopter in November 2016 culminated an eight year mission for Mr. Van Beck
At the dedication ceremonies, for Veteran Memorial Park, the Korean War monument, and the Huey helicopter, Mr. Van Beck graciously gave credit to the many donors and volunteers who helped him.
However, Mr. Van Beck was the visionary and driving force behind each of these projects, and it is not an overstatement to say that without him they never would have been realized. Even with these successes, Mr. Van Beck has not ceased his efforts. He is currently working on adding a multi-panel granite World War II Memorial to Veterans Memorial Park complete with etchings of photographs and newspaper headlines, the conceptual design of which has been approved by the Leesburg City Commission. It is also noteworthy that Mr. Van Beck began working on these projects at the age of 80, is currently 89, and during the past few years underwent treatment for prostate cancer. During all of this lie never wavered in his commitment to help veterans.
Education and Training Accomplishments:
Mr. Van Beck attended Mannion Military Academy in Aurora, Illinois, where he graduated with his high school diploma in 1945. He also attended IBM School in Endicott. New York, for 4 weeks in 1952.
Professional or Employment History:
Mr. Van Beck had a long and successful business career in the private sector. He began as a cost accountant and later an IBM data processing troubleshooter. In 1958 he started his own electronics company, which he sold in 1962 before starting another company. His second company became active in space and defense programs. Between 1962 and 1969 he purchased two other electronics firms and also managed a nuclear radiation detection firm. Following the sale of those companies in 1969, he was appointed president of a manufacturing company in Wisconsin. He turned the company around and made it profitable in one year. In 1971, at the age of 48, Mr. Van Beck retired for the first time and moved to South Florida.
Mr. Van Beck’s first retirement did not last long. He was recruited by the Center for Management Training at the University of Colorado to become a faculty member and help develop a seminar on rapidly growing manufacturing firms. He continued to lecture and consult for 14 years in addition to writing two management books that were published by University Press. In 1984 he purchased a metal products company in Alabama and 4 years later sold it to a NYSE company. In 1989 he and his wife cofounded a company that distributed networking products, which they sold in 1992. They started another company in 1993 which they sold in 1997. After that sale, Mr. Van Beck retired for good.
Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans:
Mr. Van Beck has been a stellar advocate on behalf of veterans in Central Florida. In 2008 he organized an effort to erect a memorial to veterans in downtown Leesburg. Florida. He was elected Chairman, CEO and Executive Director of the Veterans Memorial at Fountain Park, a 501(c) (3) organization. Mr. Van Beck’s advocacy on behalf of this project was tireless. The $525,000 project was completed and dedicated in May 2012. It consists of a multi-paneled granite memorial to veterans whose names are engraved, flag poles, and a permanent podium featuring area Medal of Honor recipients. Please see the attached photograph. For more information about this project go to www.LakeVetei-ans.com. What was once an underutilized city park in downtown Leesburg is now a fitting venue for events on occasions such as Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and when a local service member has fallen in the line of duty.
Mr. Van Beck did not stop with the original memorial at Veterans Memorial Park. He wanted to do more for veterans of the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Regarding Korean War veterans, as a direct result of his advocacy, a granite monument entitled Korea “The Forgotten War’’ now stands at Veterans Memorial Park. Please see the attached photograph.
To honor Vietnam veterans. Mr. Van Beck exceeded all expectations. His vision was to display an actual Huey helicopter from the Vietnam War at Veterans Memorial Park. This idea was met with great resistance from the Leesburg City Commission, but Mr. Van Beck was tenacious and did not give up. He purchased a surplus Huey helicopter for $1,750, obtained $100,000 in government contributions for refurbishment and installation, and recruited local volunteers to work on it. He used his 501(c) (3) to contract for the installation and maintenance of the Huey, with regular maintenance being provided by the local AMVETS unit at no cost to the city. The Huey was dedicated in November 2016. Please see the attached photograph, article, and tribute from the Huey “crew.”
Civic Activities and Contributions:
In addition to the foregoing activities on behalf of veterans, Mr. Van Beck is a member of the local Korean War Veterans Association, the American Legion (member for 63 years), AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Rotary Club of Leesburg. He is also an Emeritus Life Associate of the Institute of Management Accountants.
Awards or Honors:
- Rotary Club of Leesburg, Florida in February 2017 “For Outstanding Devotion and Dedication to the Ideals of Service and Unselfish Support to the Military Veteran Community”.
- 2016 Public Citizen of the Year Award from the Lake Sumter Unit of the National Association of Social Workers.
- 2016 from the Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce
- Leesburg Partnership for Community Service in 2011 – 2012.
- Veterans Sendee Medal from Governor Rick Scott.
Mr. Van Beck passed away in 2018.