Marjorie Becker is under no requirement to report to work each morning. She does it because she loves it.
“I need to know what’s going on here,” said the great-grandmother of 12. “I’ve got to keep an eye on these guys.”
“These guys” was a reference to two of her grandsons, Jim and Jason Becker, who accompanied her into the office of the 117-year-old Middleburgh Telephone Co. in Schoharie County.
Widowed in 2006, the matriarch of her family is now the CEO of the company. Now 92, Marjorie Becker was 6 months old when her parents, E. Scott and Florence Pindar Rose, sold what had been the small Rose Telephone Co. in rural Delaware County in 1923 and moved to Middleburgh.
The previous year, her father had gone to work for Middleburgh Telephone, founded in 1897 by a group of local businessmen. Scott Rose would ascend through the ranks to become the company’s president.
As a 14-year-old high school student, Marjorie Becker took a part-time job at the company and learned the ropes of the telecommunications business from the inside. In those days, when an electric typewriter was cutting-edge technology, she can recall hand-writing bills and filling out accounting ledgers.
She can recall her father, flexible in dealing with customers experiencing hard times, extending more time so they could pay their bills, and at times accepting chickens or goats for payment. She can also recall working as an operator and even driving a truck. On the day before she was married in 1946 to Randy Becker, she was installing telephone cable.
Meanwhile, Marjorie earned her insurance license while working for Liberty Mutual Co. in Rochester, and returned to Middleburgh to settle down with Randy Becker. Her husband would become general manager of Middleburgh Telephone in 1953.
While the couple was raising four sons, she earned a master’s degree in education, and worked as a fourth-grade teacher for 15 years before joining the telephone company full-time in 1973, the year after her husband became its president.
Jim Becker credits his grandparents for resisting efforts by bigger companies to gobble up Middleburgh Telephone.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, half of the independent telcos in the state have sold or have merged with a larger entity,” he said. “But our grandparents felt a strong sense of pride to serve this community. They never wanted that.”