WALTON — H.L. “Hoke” and Mae Beckley owned a grocery store and a food locker in Walton during the middle of the 20th century. The couple decided to turn their cattle pasture into a community park in the 1950s and now it has been renamed in their honor.
More than 250 children play ball on Beckley Field on Walton’s southeast side each season.
“The Beckleys are big in our community,” said Jason Humphrey, president of the Walton ball park. The Beckley house is among the oldest in town and still stands just a couple of blocks from the ball park.
After retiring from the grocery business, H.L. Beckley “couldn’t just sit around,” his grandson Scott Beckley said, so he went to work as a janitor for Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School. H.L. and Mae Beckley’s son, Ted Beckley, was a longtime teacher and principal at Lewis Cass, too. Students called him “Mr. B.”
“His family donated the ground to put the ball field in,” Humphrey said, “so we were asked if we would approve of [renaming the field] and the board voted unanimously yes.”
The sons and daughters of Ted Beckley and Phyllis Jones, H.L. and Mae Beckley’s daughter, started an initiative to change the ball field’s name late last year. The family agreed to cover the cost of the ball field’s new sign. Ted Beckley’s son, Todd Beckley, now living in Indianapolis, designed the sign.
Phyllis Jones’s son, Jeremy Jones, a Walton native now living in Zionsville, explained the history of the field to the board.
“I didn’t know that the Beckleys donated the mound until last year it was brought to my attention,” Humphrey said.
But that’s just what had happened. H.L. and Mae Beckley, or Nan and Pap as their grandchildren called them, bought a few acres on Walton’s southeast side in the early 1940s, intending to temporarily pasture customers’ cattle that had been brought to town for slaughter.
As transportation for cattle improved, the pasture was no longer necessary, said Scott Beckley, a Walton grandson of the Beckleys. Family stories say the couple wanted to build their dream home on the land. But rather than hang onto it until realizing that dream, the couple sold it in 1949 to the town of Walton for $1 so it could be turned into a children’s ball field.
“At the time, the only places in Walton to play baseball were on the very small field behind the school ... or in vacant lots around town,” wrote Jones in a letter explaining the family’s request.
“It was a win-win situation,” Scott Beckley said. “He got out from underneath the tax burden with no benefit to the land, and the town got an area to build parks and ball diamonds and basically whatever they wanted to do.”
The couple, devoted fans of the Chicago Cubs, saw their four grandsons — Scott Beckley, his brother Todd Beckley, Jones and his brother Jeff Jones — play ball on their former cattle pasture. While their granddaughter, Andrea Culp, Logansport, wasn’t a ball player, she agreed with her cousins about the need for a little recognition for their grandparents.
The ball field board of directors voted early this year to OK the name change.
“My mom is the last one” of the family who was living at the time the land became the ball park, Jones explained. “We just thought, they’d never gotten any recognition for this, so we thought it would make my mother happy.”
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.