Robert Beckett has donated time, talent and love to his Orangeburg community in a myriad of ways, and the 80-year-old isn't showing any signs of slowing up.
Whether he's lending a hand in the hospital's cancer center and emergency room, serving as vice chairman of the board of the local Christian housing ministry or working as the volunteer accountant for the free medical clinic, Beckett does it with a smile and without reservation.
He has also mentored youth, participated in the delivery of meals to the elderly and conducted a Bible study at a former nursing home as part of his outreach work. It is the esteem he holds for his own character and his regard for others that have earned his recognition as the exemplification of self-respect this month as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
It's an honor the unassuming Beckett appreciates.
"I think that a lot more people than me deserve it," he said. He said self-respect was instilled in him from a young age.
"I think it really comes from my faith, my upbringing both at home and in church. This is what God wants me to be and to show and reflect," Beckett said. "I want to be seen as somebody that wants to help other people, as having compassion."
Beckett, who received the Outstanding Older South Carolinian award in 2005, volunteers twice a week at the Regional Medical Center's Mabry Cancer Center and the hospital's ER. After serving three years as chairman, he now serves as vice chairman of Edisto Habitat for Humanity. He also volunteers his time as the accountant for the Orangeburg-Calhoun Free Clinic at 860 Holly St. in Orangeburg.
"I do a lot of volunteer work. I used to say I needed to go back to work so I could relax, but I enjoy it. I see a lot of patients that come in the ER that don't have insurance, and so I think this free clinic was a great idea to help people who fall through the cracks," Beckett said.
In addition, he volunteered for 10 years with Meals on Wheels.
"I had a Bible study class for several years at the old Edisto Nursing Home and did a couple of years mentoring at Edisto Middle School. I used to work actually building with Edisto Habitat for Humanity, but I don't do that any more. I do the purchasing now," Beckett said.
The son of the late George and Dorothy Beckett, he is a native of Hamilton, Ohio, who has lived in Orangeburg for 26 years. He credits his mother as a major influence when it came to character development.
"Of course, I was raised in the era where children were to be seen and not heard. But my mother taught me just about everything," Beckett said. "And then after my wife and I got married, her parents were almost like second parents to me."
He and his wife, Louise, will mark their 61st wedding anniversary this year.
"That's the biggest accomplishment," said Beckett, who is an elder emeritus at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Orangeburg.
He and his wife have three sons and one daughter and 10 grandchildren. Beckett said their children were reared to have self-respect and demonstrate "honesty and love of God."
"Between my wife and I, I think we've done a good job," he said.
The Orangeburg County Community of Character also does a good job with its effort to promote character, Beckett said.
"I think you need examples in our community to emulate."
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 803-533-5534.