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A Catholic You Want to Know: Joan Becker

Catholic dancer shares the joy of rhythm and movement with her Barling parish

Published: April 12, 2024   
Rita Shelby and Joan Becker (center), co-leaders of swing dancing at Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling, teach some steps to their youngest member, Maria Nuno, April 2. (Maryanne Meyerriecks)

Name: Joan Becker

Parish: Sacred Heart of Mary Church, Barling 

Age: 77

Family: Twice widowed. Her first husband, Joe Becker, with whom she shared four sons and five grandchildren, died at age 45. Her second husband, Tommy Wainwright, died Feb. 10.

Career: Retired membership coordinator at Mercy Fitness in Fort Smith and former co-owner of Dairy Diner in Charleston. 

Why You Want to Know Joan: Becker began line dancing 20 years ago, bringing dance to area nursing homes and senior centers with the Western Spirits. In October 2022, she started a weekly line dancing class for parishioners and community members, and the group has begun performing and leading line dances at parish events. In her 57 years as a member of Sacred Heart of Mary Church, she has also served on the parish council and as a eucharistic minister and choir member.



What feeds you spiritually? 

I love watching people learn and sharing the joy of dance with ladies from 40 to mid-80s. Some of them have never danced before. We dance to a variety of music, adding seasonal music at Christmas and other holidays. If the rhythm’s right, you can dance to it.

How did you get started dancing? 

A few years ago, some ladies in the parish asked me to start teaching them line dance for fun and fitness. I had never taught before and wasn’t sure I could, but dancing has always been my joy. I met my first husband, Joe, in high school, and we’d go out dancing every week. As I got older, dancing helped me to stay fit and recover from a knee replacement and injuries. Rita Shelby is my co-teacher and has been a great help while I cared for my second husband, Tommy, as he battled with cancer, and after a recent fall limited my mobility.

What do you like best about your parish? 

I grew up in St. Anthony’s in Ratcliff, met Joe at a skating rink and got married young. Sacred Heart of Mary has been my spiritual home ever since. My friends there have been with me while my sons were growing up, when my first husband died suddenly, and through all the challenges of aging and caring for my second husband. I love my weekly Bible Study group. With the growing population in Chaffee Crossing, our church is bursting at the seams. There was standing room only in the hall on Easter Sunday. It’s exciting to see new families and to see the enthusiasm and activities here. When we reopened after the pandemic, we were one of the only churches that never struggled with financial support and lowered Mass attendance. Everyone works together.

What other hobbies do you love sharing with your parish friends? 

Owning a diner in Charleston made me an accomplished cook, and I love to grow fruits and vegetables and make jellies, bread and butter pickles and salsa. I give away whatever I can’t use myself.   


-- Maryanne Meyerriecks

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