Obituary of Samuel E. W. Becker
February 12, 1884

An obituary for Samuel E. W. Becker.


The Sad End of a Talented and Accomplished Man.

           This morning about 9 o’clock the spirit of Samuel Edward Becker was released from the clay and returned unto God who gave it. Those who have made the acquaintance of Dr. Becker since he has lived in Reno may be surprised to hear that his learning and skill as a linguist have given him almost a world-wide reputation. He is from a family of high intellectual power and received every advantage in his youth, but of late years the forces that finally destroyed him have changed him so completely that the brilliant light of his genius was obscured and his many noble attributes hidden, and the general public only saw in him an ordinary looking little man in middle life and somewhat broken down. Dr. Becker, as he was properly called (for he had taken the degrees) was born in the county that gave us George Washington, Westmoreland county, Virginia, about 51 years ago, of strict Presbyterian parents, incalculated [sic] their own beliefs in his mind very carefully. He was educated at Mt. St. Mary’s Academy, Emmitsburg, Maryland, and became so strongly impressed by the doctrines of the Catholic Church that all his prejudices disappeared and he was soon an ardent convert. He studied for the priesthood but never took orders. He exerted his influence so strongly as to proselyte his younger brother, Thomas Becker, who is now Bishop of the diocese of Wilmington, Delaware and a man of the highest culture and character, in fact one of the most learned Bishops in the church. After graduating Dr. Becker occupied chairs in the University of Virginia, the school in which he graduated, and others as


            Such was his pliability of mind and retention of memory that he committed anything he desired almost perfectly by reading it over once, and often said he would be glad to divide his store of such knowledge with those to whom it came harder. Some years ago he left Wilmington, Delaware, and went to San Francisco to act as Professor of Languages at Mt. St. Mary’s, and staid there until four years ago, when he came to Reno. He taught a class of girls in Mt. St. Mary’s Academy here for 18 months, and since then has led a rather unsettled life. The last work he did was to put in a month or two on the GAZETTE as reporter. His writings were excellent in their way, but he was too much given to speculative subjects to make a good news-gatherer. As an editorial writer he would have taken very high rank, but in the rough and tumble of local reportings he was not at home. His liberal education was of little use to him in this new land where hard blows are needed rather than sentiment or accomplishments. The true field for Dr. Becker was probably closed to him when he abandoned the church, and his life was almost lost by it.


           And his was no exception. It came in his early manhood and ended disastrously, breaking off his new life, as his changing from the church had his old, and leaving him without the high motive and strong controlling influence necessary to such natures. He roamed a great deal and visited every country known to man. When he could travel no longer as a passenger he enlisted on a man-of-war and served his time. He was a rare conversationalist when at his best, and delighted all who got him started on the subject of his travels. When the war broke out he went in at once and gained applause as Adjutant on General P. E. Conner’s staff. The General gives him great praise for his capacity and faithfulness. He was of a philosophical turn of mind, little given to vice and a great lover of virtue and learning[.] He had a great contempt for the so-called politics of present times. He spoke 35 languages, was a fine mathematician, a man of the highest personal character and the loftiest sentiments. The vulgar story and coarse jest were lost on him. He had fine literary taste, was a ready writer and at one time was much sought after by the magazines. His range of reading was immense and he was almost a walking library. His mother still lives in Pennsylvania, but had no relatives on this coast. He was of a kind temper and used to refer to himself as Mother Dolores uncle but they were not connected at all. The funeral occurs to morrow at 10:30 at the Catholic Church.


Printed in Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), February 12, 1884.