Boyd Reid Beck died peacefully on Aug. 31, 2022, at his home in Spring City after a well-fought, life-long battle with kidney and heart disease.
He was preceded in death by his parents Osmer Hayes and Sarah Phyllis Sorensen; by his son Robert Dennis; his brothers Richard and DeVon; his sisters, Phyllis and Lois; and his prized pet sheep Billy. He is survived by his wife Sandra Aiken; his children, Sherene (Kerry) VanDyke, Anna (Jeff) Adams, Amy (Chad) Thompson, and Russell (Kacy) Beck; his sisters Neva, and ReNee; and no less than 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Boyd was born on July 22, 1945, in his parents’ home in Spring City. He had a good childhood—filled with picnics, microscopes, and pets—but after getting sick at a young age, Boyd realized he wouldn’t be able to carry on the family profession of raising sheep. So, he dedicated himself to studying instead. In his own words he “decided to live like [he] was going to die next year but learn like [he] was going to live forever.”
Under doctor’s orders, he was asked to rest for half of seventh grade. His mother said that he had to always keep one foot in bed, and he did—technically. Whether or not he actually got much rest is up for debate. Boyd learned to develop film under his covers that year and managed to play with his nieces and nephews despite bed rest. His illness flared up again at 14, and he was again asked to stay in bed. This time he found a tutor. His uncle Boyd Blain took it upon himself to educate his nephew. Boyd Beck often credited Boyd Blain, an English teacher, for instilling in him a hunger for learning that simply never waned.
Boyd served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in California, Arizona, and Nevada, which was the first time he left Utah. He adored his mission—especially because he had thought his health would prevent him from being able to serve. Later in life he would go onto hold various church callings including service in the Manti Temple and some stake callings at Snow College.
Boyd graduated four times—from North Sanpete High School, Snow College, Brigham Young University, and finally the University of Utah, with a PhD in Chemistry—and it seems that he didn’t know how to graduate from somewhere without being at the top of his class. During the summers, to help pay for school, Boyd was a sheep herder up on the mountain. He filled his sheep camp with mutton, textbooks, and sourdough.
He was equally accomplished at work. As a chemist, Boyd worked for 3M, Albion Labs, sBioMed and Harris Research (among other places). He held several U.S. and foreign patents, including such useful products as carpet cleaners that can lift stubborn red Kool-Aid and anti-fog solutions that can be rubbed on glasses or mirrors. But his real vocational pride was the work he did as a teacher.
For over 31 years, Dr. Beck taught chemistry to thousands of students at Snow College. He had a goal to learn all his student’s names by the third day of class—which, by all accounts, he achieved. He personally helped hundreds of students go onto successful careers, includ- ing many pharmacists, doctors, and scientists. Dr. Beck loved his students; he often had a line out his office door that never seemed to diminish. He would individually tutor any student who asked for it, no matter how long it took. He was an exceptionally gifted teacher and mentor. His family has long forgiven him for setting such an excessive precedent for personal and professional success.
In 1999 Boyd received a kidney from his son Russell. He often credited that generous donation for tacking on 20 extra years to his life. His children attribute his longevity to the tireless, loving support of his wife of 53 years, Sandra. The fact that Boyd lived to 77 years is because he and Sandra were simply too stubborn to let him die. He would always thank the medical professionals who offered him care over the years, many of whom commented on his positive attitude despite his awful health.
Looking back at his life, Boyd was a man filled with contradictions. He was chron- ically ill from a young age, but optimistic almost to a fault. He nearly failed out of elementary school only to go on to be the valedictorian of every school he graduated from. He was a sheep herder and a chemist. He was consistently kind, even when life wasn’t kind to him. He was the smartest person in every room he entered, but he would never let anyone know that. All the people who got to know Boyd will miss him— whether they met him clad in a white lab coat in a classroom, or on the mountain smelling of campfire smoke, or dressed in a suit behind a lectern.
The family would like to thank our friends, Anita Johansen, the dedicated hospice team, and the many doctors who helped Boyd during these last years of his life. If you would honor Boyd’s memory, we ask that you reflect on how many lives he managed to change for the better—through service, through teaching, through chemistry—despite so many odds stacked against him. Boyd’s life reminds us that we should never despair, that despite our burdens we, too, can persevere.
There will be a funeral service held on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at 11 a.m. in the Spring City 2nd Ward Chapel (150 South Main). Viewings will be held Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, at Rasmussen Mortuary (96 N 100 W, Mt. Pleasant) from 6-8 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30–10:30 a.m. prior to services at the church.
Interment will be held in the Spring City Cemetery. In lieu of a donation, consider learning something new, taking a drive up the canyon, holding a baby, or petting a dog.