Francis X. Becker, a former Lynbrook Village mayor and state Supreme Court justice — part of a family whose political imprint in southwestern Nassau dates to World War II — died Sunday. He was 90.
The cause was pneumonia, said his son, former Nassau County Legis. Francis X. Becker Jr. of Lynbrook.
“He passed down that love of public service, something he considered a vocation,” said the younger Becker, 63, who held office from 1996 to 2015. “The world has changed so much, but to serve his community was a great honor and really filled him with gratitude.”
A lifelong Lynbrook resident, the elder Francis Becker was the son of Frank J. Becker, who served in the State Assembly from 1945 to 1953 and then as a congressman through 1965.
Francis Becker graduated from Lynbrook High School and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps before receiving degrees from Cornell University and Cornell Law School. He and his wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1998, raised 12 children.
In 1967, Becker, a Republican, was elected mayor of Lynbrook, which was “really languishing” without a significant commercial tax base, said another son, Hilary Becker.
Francis Becker immediately tackled the issue by helping oust an unpopular junkyard and replace it with a luxury car dealership, said Hilary Becker, an elected Lynbrook trustee.
“Right off the bat, the residents said, ‘This guy’s a miracle worker,’ ” Hilary Becker said. “He got rid of a junkyard and put in a Cadillac dealer.”
As Lynbrook mayor for more than a decade, Francis Becker also helped build a new village hall and brought in banks and office buildings, easing pressure on residential taxpayers.
“In my family, it was leadership by example,” said Hilary Becker, 55. “Talk was cheap.”
In 1980, Francis Becker was elected to the state Supreme Court bench, handling civil cases. One of his most noteworthy came in the mid-80s, when a Floral Park resident sued tennis star John McEnroe for $6 million, claiming McEnroe threw a fistful of sawdust in his face during a courtside confrontation at the U.S. Open.
Becker dismissed the case, writing that McEnroe’s outburst — which he called “an imitation of an irate ‘Tinkerbell’ sprinkling pixie dust” — was not worthy of damages.
“Defendant’s childlike petulance, ill-manners and a certain unimaginative redundancy in matters vulgar is not conduct which justifies such a characterization,’’ Becker wrote, according to a 1985 New York Times story. “Shabby, yes; actionable, no.”
Francis Becker Jr. said his father enjoyed his time as a judge, but his deep Catholic faith — he went to church each morning — made matrimonial cases uncomfortable: “He hated to see families split up; it just bothered him so much.”
The elder Becker retired from the court in 1994, after fulfilling his 14-year term. In later years, he played tennis and was an avid fly-fisherman, camping along the Battenkill River in upstate Shushan.
“He just loved the sound of the birds and the river,” said Francis Becker Jr. “It was very peaceful; almost heavenly.”
Francis X. Becker also is survived by sons Gregory Becker, of Lynbrook, who served as a state assemblyman representing Lynbrook in the 1980s and ’90s; Timothy Becker, of Batavia, Ohio; Luke Becker, of Hagerstown, Maryland; Damian Becker, of Lynbrook; daughters Christina Becker, of Malverne; Susanna Weatherholt, of Lewisville, North Carolina; Teresa Lynch, of Belle Mead, New Jersey; Elizabeth Corbett, of Vinton, Virginia; Jane Nothdorft, of Buford, Georgia; Anne Phillips, of Guyton, Georgia; brother, Robert G. Becker, of Lynbrook; sister Betty Ann Myers of Torrance, California; and 33 grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was held Thursday at St. Raymond Catholic Church in East Rockaway, followed by burial at Rockville Cemetery in Lynbrook.