John Lester Beckman
8/10/05 - San Gabriel Valley Tribune
'Focused on moving forward'
It all happened so fast.
During the early morning of July 22, John Beckman drove his motorcycle into his driveway on Baseline Avenue in La Verne and was struck by another vehicle.
The 35-year-old died almost instantly, leaving behind his 13- year-old daughter Alyssa, who family members said was diagnosed with special needs when was born.
Although her speech is slow and slurred and her actions are abrupt, she understands exactly what happened.
"Dad was driving from the birthday party, and the girl followed my dad. He come up to the driveway and she ran here and my dad fell here,' Alyssa said, explaining with hand movements what happened that night outside her home.
"He is with Jesus now, looking down at me and waiting for me,' she said with a smile.
Alyssa did not have fully developed lungs at birth, and spent the first 21 days of her life on a respirator, family members said. As a result, she suffered brain damage.
This caused her language to slow and her mental capacity to stop around the age of 8, said her grandmother, Marilyn Beckman.
"She will need lots of care,' Marilyn said. "She will always have special needs, she will always be in special schools.'
To take care of those needs, Alyssa is moving to Huntington Beach to be with her mother, stepfather and baby sister.
"It is going to be a huge change, but we're taking it slow. We don't want to rush her,' said Heather Cunningham, 31, Alyssa's mother.
From adding on a new bedroom to leaving work and becoming a stay-at-home mom, Cunningham said there is going to be a lot of adjustments.
"Alyssa does not like to be left alone, so I will be with her all the time,' said Cunningham, who said she is very close with her daughter. "I will not be going back to work, but I am definitely OK with that.'
There were a lot of sacrifices made to keep Alyssa comfortable when she was living with her father, and her mother is now preparing to do the same.
Although Cunningham and Beckman had been divorced for several years, she said they remained close and formed a great relationship.
"There has always been a lot of things Alyssa has needed,' she said. "But John and I made every decision with her best interests in mind.'
Cunningham said she can see a lot of her former husband in her daughter.
"They both had the same goofy walk, they both smiled and laughed the same, they loved the same foods and music,' she said. "I don't want those things to go away.'
According to news reports, Bridget Ridgel, 35, of San Dimas, was allegedly driving the 1991 GMC Jimmy that rear- ended Beckman's Harley-Davidson. She was booked into La Verne City Jail on suspicion of felony hit and run as well as vehicular manslaughter.
She was arrested July 22 and released the next day on $100,000 bail, authorities said.
Family members said they will not monitor what happens as the matter goes through the legal system.
"We do not want to be involved in this part,' Marilyn Beckman said. "We are just focused on moving forward.'
Lori Consalvo can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2705, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
In Loving Memory of JOHN LESTER BECKMAN
Deadly Roads - Hit and Run Accidents