On the second of March, we lost one of the most impactful people you ever met. Once a maid, working her way to the title of “Doctor,” Sheila Becker was a strong, driven, empowering woman. Most of all, she was a character.
Dr. Julia “Sheila” Becker, née O’Sullivan passed away on March 2, 2020, age 92 years and 8 months.
Born in Claraghatlea, Millstreet, County Cork, Ireland on June 28, 1927, Sheila was raised in a large Irish family with 16 siblings. Having no running water or electricity, Sheila often said she grew up on fresh air.
Sheila became a nanny and midwife in London, helping deliver hundreds of babies. Her ticket to America in 1955 came at the age of 28, due to the nursing shortage. Sheila was a Registered Nurse and her trip to America was the opportunity of a life time.
As for many immigrants, her arrival to America brought the opportunity for a better life. Sheila continued her education, receiving her Masters in Social Work and culminating in her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the Center for Humanistic Studies, at the age of 67. Over the years, Sheila counselled many individuals and families, helping them work through life’s conflicts and emotional distress. Her strength of character and strong religious beliefs made her a role model for many.
Sheila married her husband Julius (Jay) Adrian Becker in 1957 and had 2 daughters, Margaret (Meg) and Catherine (Kit). They lived in northwest Detroit. In 1969 the Becker’s purchased a small farm on 8 Mile Rd near South Lyon. They and their friends became weekend farmers. Many good times were had working the land and creating memories to last a lifetime.
The family moved into their current home in Birmingham in 1980. Sheila loved to volunteer as a tutor at Derby Middle School and was adopted as “Grandmother” by students over the years. She also founded the Aspiring Authors group at the Birmingham Senior Center (BirminghamNEXT.org). Sheila published her memoir “My Dream from Ireland to America – Please Call Me Sheila” and inspired others to do the same.
Sheila made friends with everyone that was within reach – literally. She was known to reach out her hand and say “Hi, I’m Sheila Becker”, and within a few minutes had a knack for learning the life story of total strangers. She would frequently bring home those she met at the park and invite them in for tea or dinner. Her home on Thanksgiving became a wonderful event for anyone that did not have a place to go. One never knew who would show up; having extra food to feed the guests was a must.
Sheila lived her life to the fullest and enjoyed being a dual citizen of both Ireland and the United States, and specifically, a resident of the City of Birmingham for 40 years.
Sheila is survived by her children, Margaret Becker and Catherine (Thomas) Washabaugh. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Julie Ann and Jennifer Renee Washabaugh, her brother, Patsy O’Sullivan, niece Margaret O’Sullivan, sister Theresa Kelleher and numerous other loving Irish nieces and nephews around the globe, sister-in-law Helen Becker, niece Pamela Wilde (William), great-nephews, Mark and Alex Wilde, nephew Rene Becker (Cynthia), and great-niece, Lucie Becker. Sheila is also survived by many incredible special friends of all ages. You all know who you are. Her neighbors in Birmingham have been beyond kind and generous, always keeping a watchful eye on her and bringing over goodies. She was predeceased by her loving husband, Julius (Jay) Becker on 6/6/2014.
Sheila was always so wonderfully loyal to her native Irish hometown of Millstreet. As we say in Gaelic “Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis” (Her noble soul on the right hand of God).
Visitation will be held at Lynch & Sons Funeral Home, 1368 N. Crooks Road (between 14-15 Mile Rds.) Thursday, March 5th, 4-8pm. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Holy Name Church, 630 Harmon, Birmingham, Friday at 10am. Friends may visit at church beginning at 9:30am.
In lieu of flowers, Sheila requested that consideration be made to donate to NEXT (www.BirminghamNext.org), the Rackham Symphony Choir or the SCARAB Club.
What a dear, special person we have lost.
As Sheila would say, Goodnight, God Bless, Love you, Bye.