Middleburgh Telephone Under Randall and Marge Becker
Marjorie Silliman Rose, the daughter of Edmund Scott and Florence Pindar Rose, was born into the telephone business on August 10, 1922 - only no one knew it at the time. Her father, E. Scott Rose, had grown up on a farm in Hobart, NY, where he and Marge's grandfather had strung a wire from the barn to the house so they could communicate with her grandmother. As other farmers around the area learned of their system, they asked the Roses to do the same for them and the Rose Telephone Company was born.
Shortly after Marge's birth, the family sold their company in Hobart, and moved to Middleburgh, where her father went to work for the 25 year old Middleburgh Telephone Company. While Marge grew up in Middleburgh, finished high school, and went on to graduate from Keuka College, she never got far from the telephone business. At age 14, she started working for the telephone company part time and continued working throughout her college years. She would work part-time as an operator, truck driver, and administrator. Marge laughingly tells the story of driving the truck for installing new telephone cable the day before her wedding.
After college graduation, she went to work for the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in Rochester and got her insurance license. She moved back to Middleburgh and was developing a successful insurance career when 'cupid's arrow' found her.
The lucky man was Randall Frank Becker born on May 8, 1921. Randy, as he was known, also grew up in Middleburgh and was a typical country boy who liked sports, fast cars, and having fun.
Randy and Marge had always known each other growing up but never dated. After high school graduation, Randy had been away attending Syracuse University and serving in the Army - Air Force Division for four years during World War II. After his discharge in 1944, they began dating and were married in 1946.
Initially, they were partners in a news stand and snack bar in Middleburgh and sold it in 1948 when Randy went to work for the family business. While Randy was learning the business, Marge was at home "generally managing" the growth of their four children, Scott, Ned, Chris, and Bruce. All four currently serve on the Board of Directors. Chris and Bruce work for the company, as do Marge and Randy's daughter-in-law Barbara, and grandsons Jim, Jason and Keith.
Marge went back to school and got her Master's Degree in Education from the College of St. Rose in Albany and took a job as a 4th Grade teacher in Duanesburg. She taught school there for over 15 years. However, at night, she still found herself working part-time for the telephone company doing work orders and other administrative items that needed attention. Marge finally joined the company full-time in 1973.
Randy came to quickly learn the business and was named General Manager in 1953. Randy became President/General Manager in 1972, and served in this capacity till his death on April 1, 2006. In addition to his work at the company, Randy was an active community participant. Over the years, he had served as an officer of the Middleburgh Methodist Church, superintendent of Sunday school and was chairman of the building committee for the new fellowship hall. He was master of the Masonic Lodge (No. 663), past president of the Rotary Club and he was Rotary Club Citizen of the year in 2001. He had also been a member of the Middleburgh Fire Department, a member of American Legion, served as manager of the Middleburgh and Schoharie Little League and served on the Salvation Army Service Unit Committee as well as the county Red Cross Unit. He was very active in scouting and later went on to receive the Silver Beaver, scouting's highest award. His longer-standing positions include being councilman on the Middleburgh Town Board from 1950-1969. Randy was honored for his 20 years of service on the Middleburgh Town Board by his fellow board members in 1997. The town also honored Randy in July of 1997 for outstanding community service when he was named "Centennial Citizen of the Town of Middleburgh".
As is the case with many Independent Telephone owners, Marge and Randy guided their telephone company through the changes of the 70's, 80's, and 90's, and laid the foundation for the 21st century with fortitude, grace, and personal sacrifice. For more than half century they have led the company through tremendous amount of growth, as they acquired many of the surrounding rural systems and updated their plant and resources, as well as services.
Randy served on the NYSTA Board from 1974 to 1986, and always spoke fondly of the challenges they faced as well as the camaraderie he felt. He was part of the guiding force that helped the Independents through change in proportions they had never faced before. He decided to not run for re-election in 1986 to make room for new faces and ideas.
Over the years, I have heard many people comment how Randy and Marge "welcomed" them into the industry and made them feel like part of the Telco family. Most of these are other Independent Telco people but some are vendors as well. The unifying theme of many of their comments is the signature trademark of Marge and Randy. They tell of Randy's unassuming personality, his ability to connect on a personal level, and his kind and gentle nature. And they tell of Marge's warm embrace, nurturing attitude, and sharp mind. Marge and Randy always had time for everyone and they are remembered for that to this day.
As with most of the community support mentioned below, Randy and Marge liked "a behind the scenes approach" and did not want to be in the forefront. However, that does not fully represent their role and impact on some of the larger initiatives the Independents have been involved in. They took a very active role in the legislative initiatives NYSTA presented, and were always campaigning for Telco issues in a down to earth, yet professional and informative way. They are a staunch supporter of and made sure the Middleburgh team did what it took to support collaborations like NYSINET, IWO, INOC and most recently ION. They truly believe in this industry and know we have to work together to survive, and their ambassadorship for the industry and spirit for what the Independent Telephone Companies truly stand for, is immeasurable.
Commitment to the community and its people is another very important part of Randy and Marge's legacy. Words simply can not describe the level of commitment they have provided, and it would take too long to list everything. There are four items that help give you a sense of what they are about and how important they are to the community.
- Except on the very rare occasion, the larger donations were given behind the scenes, anonymously or with the agreement no names would be shared. This was always Randy and Marge's way.
- The Village and Town of Middleburgh created the Marge & Randy Becker Community Citizenship Award in honor of everything they have done. Each year a local citizen who exemplifies the spirit of Randy and Marge's "Commitment to Community" receives an award.
- Last year they posted a $50,000 Challenge Grant to raise matching funds to help locate a Bassett Hospital Care Center in Middleburgh. The Community responded by donating more than $100,000 towards this worthwhile cause, which is now becoming a reality.
- They have established the Marge and Randy Becker Foundation which each year will give support and funds to various organizations and efforts around the Village of Middleburgh and Schoharie County.
Beyond the business and community aspect, and most importantly, Randy and Marge make every employee feel like part of the family. Whether it is friendly advice, a kick in the pants, or a gentle pat on the back, the employees knew they can count on them for support. It was not always all work and no play with Randy, employees had to watch out for an impromptu snowball fight that he started, a bag (or bags on most occasions) of shredded paper in their car, their car not being parked where they left it that morning, or an impromptu milkshake order which he took and delivered. Marge would sometimes do the scolding, but it was always with a sparkle in her eye and half smile or serious attempt not to laugh. She knew the employees liked it, and loved the interaction between her and Randy even more.
Randy and Marge did the things necessary to help the company meet its customer's needs and grow, as they poured their life into the company and the communities it serves and the industry of which we are all a part of. It is safe to say, without their perseverance, steadfast command, and nurturing touch, The Middleburgh Telephone Company may not exist today.
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