Celebration of life for John E. Beckwith, Sr. 12:00pm St. John Unleashed 1701 W. Jefferson Blvd. Grand Prairie, TX
By Dorothy J. Gentry
Texas Metro News
The Beckwith name is known far and wide. Whether it’s from the funeral business; the popular TLC reality show – The Best Funeral Ever; or the family’s decades of philanthropy, the Beckwiths are a staple in the communities they serve and legendary amongst other funeral home establishments.
In over 65 years in the funeral business – more than 40 as founder of the Golden Gate Funeral Homes – John E. Beckwith, Sr. and his family business have comforted literally thousands of families as they helped them bury their loved ones.
Friends, family, community and political leaders and more reflected on Beckwith Sr.’s reach and impact on the entire Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, surrounding communities and even as far as his home state of Louisiana, during a Tuesday night wake celebrating his life.
Beckwith, Sr. died on September 5.. He was 80.
Several celebrations have been held in Beckwith’s honor leading up to his funeral service and burial scheduled for Wednesday. A wake was held on Tuesday night at his church, St. John Church Unleashed in Grand Prairie.
Many in attendance had virtually the same thought: that the senior Beckwith’s contributions to Dallas and surrounding communities will be felt and remembered for generations to come.
“He extended a helping hand to those who needed one,” said Dallas County Precinct 1 Constable Tracey Gulley. “More often than not, Mr. Beckwith would determine if a person required assistance and provided it even before they could ask. He was generous and kind hearted.”
“We will miss that smooth walk of his and that brim tilted to the side, that contagious smile that came with the friendly parade wave, even the hand gesture he would use to beckon you to come to him so he could tell you something.”
St. John Church Unleashed senior pastor Dr. Denny Davis called his legacy “tremendous.”
“He often said to me, ‘Reverend, funerals are for the living, not for the dead,’” said Davis. “He meant that whatever you do, it ought to be for the strength, encouragement and edifying of the living. And so, we have come to do just that; to lift this family who has lifted so many families throughout the DFW Metroplex, the state and the nation in times of grief and sorrow.
“This family serves over 3,000 families each year in over 40 years of business. That’s a whole lot of families that have been comforted and encouraged,” Davis said. “Who comforts the caregivers? Who comforts the comforters? When your profession is centered around being there for others, often people forget that your loss is real.
“You’re no longer serving a family but are the family to be served,” Davis continued. “So, we lift them in our prayers tonight and we are here to support them and encourage them in any way we can.”
Golden Gate Funeral Home was founded by Beckwith Sr. on September 15, 1980 in Waxahachie, Texas. He opened a second location in Dallas and made it the corporate headquarters. He eventually earned the privilege of owning and operating one of the largest African American family owned and operated funeral homes in the nation.
Beckwith, Sr. extended his reach – this time in his home state of Louisiana -and Beckwith Golden Gate Funeral Home was established in Tallulah, LA on July 19, 2001. It is now one of the fastest growing African American funeral homes in north Louisiana.
In 2006 they relocated the Dallas corporate headquarters to a larger facility off of Interstate 35. They opened a third location in Fort Worth in August 2010 and added “A” Crematory in February 2016.
Beckwith, Sr. received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Dallas/Fort Worth Bible Institute and Seminary. He served as an Honorary Deputy Constable in Dallas County, Precinct One, and is credited with starting the Security Ministry at St. John.
In 2012 he was honored as the Independent Funeral Directors Association of Texas, Inc. Professional of the Year.
“We will miss Mr. Beckwith Sr. but the angels from Heaven have surrounded him and cheered him on to a higher calling,” said Constable Gulley. “We know he has fought a good fight, kept the good faith and ran one heck of a race.”