Dr Keith Beck awarded posthumous Medal of the Order of Australia in Queen’s Birthday Honours List

After almost a year after his death, Dr Keith Beck has been awarded an OAM in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his community and professional work. 

The rural GP and locum was a foundation member of the NSW branch of the Australian Association of Practice Managers, member of the Rural Doctors’ network and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and board member at Bundaleer Care Services.

Serving as a GP from 1951 to 2017, he was a strong advocate for senior and geriatric care, management and treatment.

On July 5 in 2017, Dr Beck passed away from pancreatic cancer.

About 12 months before his diagnosis, his children – Paul, Damien, Anthony and Denise – along with close friends and family began collating information on his accomplishments in a book.

Unlike the 778 people who received a letter for their OAM this year, Dr Beck had already known about his nomination.

Only days before his death, as he was sitting in his hospital bed, his son Anthony broke the news to him.

Dr Beck skimmed through the book – titled ‘At Your Beck and Call’ – and was shocked but touched to hear about the submission.

“He wasn’t the sort of person to jump out for accolades,” his daughter Denise said.

“A lot of people from Crookwell and Goulburn will be chuffed he would get such an honour bestowed on him. 

“I know my three brothers are just as proud of such an amazing man. I’m the proudest daughter in Australia.”

At age 12, the baker’s son had gained a Masters of Music from the London Conservatory of Music. 

In 1950, he graduated from Sydney University with a degree in medicine and surgery and later worked at Lewisham Hospital.

It was there he met and later married his best mate and wife, Shirlee.

They honeymooned in Melbourne and afterwards commenced working life in a cottage hospital in Delegate on the Victorian border. During the winter months he would travel out in the cold and snow, wrapped in the Sydney Morning Herald under his suit to keep warm.

During the early years, Dr Beck accepted payment for his services by means of potatoes, pumpkins, eggs and other essentials such as firewood, knitted gloves and beanies.

Dr Beck was always able to provide for the family on weekends after a day of golf or lawn bowls, when he would arrive home with a frozen chook or meat trays.

He often did night calls and his practice had a night bell for patients to ring when they required his services after hours.

After 15 years in Crookwell, the family moved to Goulburn and stayed from 1972 to 1991. 

In Crookwell, Dr Beck was awarded the Ambulance Medal, and attracted the very first Ford Galaxy ambulance and fundraised with chocolate wheels.

Dr Beck was the first-ever known practice manager in Australia, managing a big group practice of 19 doctors. At the time, it was the biggest group practice in Australia.

Dr and Mrs Beck went on a holiday to Port Macquarie and came across Wauchope.

It was in 1991 they chose to up and move to Wauchope on the basis of retirement, although Dr Beck would continue as a locum between Kempsey and Taree.

Dr Beck eventually hung up his stethoscope at the age of 85 in 2012, the year Shirlee, his rock, died.

He continued to volunteer on the Board of Bundaleer up until 2015.

“He was an angel,” his daughter Denise said.

“He wasn’t just a GP; he was there for his patients 24/7. When he wasn’t caring for patients night and day, he was with his family friends.

“He really had a passion to look after the ageing population, trying to make nursing homes feel like their own homes. He was truly a man before his time.”

She said she was gobsmacked when she received the honour nomination letter from the Governor-General’s office.

“I want to say a massive thank you: this is all amazing,” she said.

“If I could be half the person he was, it would be wonderful.”

With additional reporting by Letitia Fitzpatrick and Peter Daniels