LOVE Story: Grandma Becker would be 30 years-old today

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Today we’re celebrating my Grandma Justine’s “30th would-be birthday” – Leap Year Style! She died at the age of 91 (or 22.75 in leap year math) and every leap year, I think of her. Today is that day!

Let’s do the math

Tell me, do you have anyone in your life who died at 22.75 with 14 living children? I think not! The math is a little bizarre but it’s one of many interesting things about my grandmother.

Justine Becker (aka Grandma Becker) was born on February 29, 1904 to Peter and Anna Bormann, and was the sixth of eight children. She married Matthew Becker at the age of 19 and they proceeded to have 14 children. (YES, you read that correctly.) Frank, Delores, Lorene, Alvin, Rosemary, Harold, Mark, Betty, Norma, Bob, Pat, Marge, Joyce, and Jane.

Grandpa Becker died when my mom (the cute little lady above in the pink dress) was just 16 years old, and the family pitched in to help run the family farm after his passing. Mom said she got “inside duty” where she cleaned and helped cook for their large family.

Grandma Becker was the only grandparent I can remember. My dad’s dad, Grandpa Reding, died when I was just four years old and his wife (Grandma Reding) died the year before I was born.

Grandma Justine as a toddler.

So Many Grandchildren

I’m one (#63) of Grandma Becker’s 84 grandchildren. If you do more math, the Becker crew had an average of six children (the exact number of kids that my mom and dad added to the mix).

Thanks to a giant spreadsheet that is linked in the Becker Family Facebook Page (and managed by my cousin, Jean), we have more stats – 177 great grandchildren (our Josh is #128 and our Zach is #138), 178 great-great grandchildren (our Amelia is #173), and great-great-greats are TBD!

Memories of Grandma

As a kid, I can remember going to see her in Wesley, Iowa, with my mother who used to visit her often. We’d spend the day with her, and I can remember a few things.

  • Her sewing machine. Grandma was an expert seamstress and I have one very special quilt from her that I cherish. She passed on her love of sewing and quilting to many talented women in our giant family. Take a look at the beautiful quilts in the collage below. Each one was made by a Becker aunt or cousin!
  • The basement freezer. We’d always head to Grandma’s basement to pull homemade candy and cookies out of the freezer. Now I know where my mom got it! I eventually got the gene too.
  • Her food! Yes, Grandma was a great cook and she made everything from scratch. I can specifically remember eating Swiss Steak, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and homemade pie, of course. The Becker women are very talented in the area of cooking as a result!
  • Grandma’s hair. If I remember correctly, my mother and her sisters would take turns going to her house to do her hair for the week (or sometimes take her to a salon). They’d curl, rat, and spray it so that it didn’t move.
  • She came to our wedding. I was very proud to have Grandma Becker (and three of Mike’s grandparents) at our wedding in 1989.
A collage of quilts hand-made by the Becker women.
A photo at our wedding with Grandma Justine, Grandpa Raymond, Grandma Helen and Grandpa Wendell.


While growing up, our giant Becker Family would gather – usually once in the summer and once at Christmas. I vividly remember the halls that we’d rent for an afternoon. The adults would sit at tables, eating and playing cards, while the children ran around like crazy. Why do I remember getting super sweaty?

As we got older, I’ll admit that I didn’t always want to attend all of the gatherings. But now I cherish every single memory. Our giant Becker Family is still gathering, but not as often. There was a reunion last summer that I was unable to attend.

Becker reunion in 1994
Overhead photo of the Becker Family Reunion in 2004.

Life Moves On

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to see many aunts and uncles, especially when traveling “home” to see Mom and Dad. Many of Mom’s siblings lived near enough to stop in for coffee at their home in St. Joseph and were unbelievably thoughtful to visit them often when they moved into assisted living and finally, the nursing home. The benefit was that I got to see them too.

As life moves on, there have been many deaths including my mother, Norma Jean, over the past several years. There are only four remaining aunts at this time – Pat, Marge, Joyce, and Jane – and they continue to stay close to each other. I’m so proud of this giant family heritage. Grandpa and Grandma Becker would be proud too.

An overhead photo of the Becker reunion.


  1. What a great tribute to an amazing family starting from the top. So many good memories from all the family reunions.

  2. Rita Frette #39 grandchild says:

    Sue – I was commenting at work on Thursday that my Grandma Becker was turning 30 years old today!! It was a great way for remembering her birthday being a leap year baby. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Wow, so much family! Blessings to all!

  4. Joyce Wagner says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful tribute to Grandma. We got an ice cream maker when Grandma was staying with us. She loved ice cream and we made new family memories. Grandma celebrated her “21st” with us. (The cake wasn’t ready as the bakery was sure there was a mistake!) My heart is filled with love and fond memories for all of my family. 💞13of14

  5. Yes, the cookies that came out of Grandma’s freezer when we would show up for a visit!
    Thanks for writing the tribute!
    Very well done!
    Happy Birthday Grandma Becker!

  6. Dar Elbert says:

    Thanks for writing such a great tribute to Grandma, she was such an important part of our lives!

  7. Sue that was a beautiful tribute to Grandma! It brought tears to my eyes when I read it… I still miss my momma💕and my siblings who are no longer with us. As we have for years, the 4 remaining ones gather in Arizona for a month filled with baking and playing cards. This year we are missing Bob and Mary💕. Very good memories of how important family is…love you all💕💕💕

  8. Jill Potthoff #69 grandchild says:

    Sue what a wonderful tribute to Grandma Becker. Grandma made my first communion and my confirmation dresses. I also loved her circle sugar cookies. I remember growing up with all my cousins who turned into my first friends. She was quite the role model for all of us.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      I love this, Jill! Thanks for sharing!

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