OBITUARY: Garfield Beckstead

February 27, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse
Garfield Ray Beckstead, founder and owner of Useppa Island Club, passed away peacefully on the evening of February 16, 2021 at the age of 82 after a long and bravely fought battle with cancer.
Gar spent his last days surrounded by the joy and love of his entire family, especially enjoying seeing all four of his amazing grandchildren. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Sanae Beckstead; his children Mika and Donald Beckstead; his four grandchildren Garfield, Barron, Emerson and Harper Beckstead; his brother Gary; and many nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his mother and father, Elsa and Donald Beckstead, and his brother, Dean Beckstead.
Gar was born in Drayton, North Dakota and raised in the small town of Emerson Manitoba. Earning an ice hockey scholarship, Gar studied engineering at the University of North Dakota earning both a degree and the 1959 NCAA Ice Hockey Championship title for the Fighting Sioux. He started his career at ATT in New York City where he also began his MBA studies at St. Johns University. He finished his studies earning an MBA from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland while working full time for ATT and then Robert Heller & Associates. Soon after he began a decade long tenure as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company, an adventure that took him across the globe including an extended stay in Tokyo where he not only fell in love with the culture but also met his bride-to-be, Sanae. His next stop was Scandinavia, where while not at work he enjoyed sailing the archipelago around Stockholm and laying the groundwork for a dream of restoring a tiny speck of mosquito-infested jungle in Southwest Florida.

He arrived on Useppa Island in the fall of 1976 with his new bride, no money, but a heart full of gumption and set out the task of restoring Useppa to its former glory through sheer sweat equity. Having left the corporate world behind, and now controlling his own destiny with his new bride at his side, he had found his paradise. In conjunction with the rebuilding of Useppa Island, he found time to develop Palm Island Resort with his brother Dean, creating so many wonderful memories for the people who still live there and visit it today.

In the following decades Useppa experienced a renaissance of activity, community forming and historical preservation, ultimately becoming the rare gem it is today, the vision of a small town boy fulfilled. Seeing this Island Phoenix rise from the ashes was his biggest source of pride, having cared for and nurtured it for so many years with the same passion and devotion a father would for a child.

Gar was many things; a loving husband, a wonderful father, a deadly serious angler and responsible conservationist hunter, a humble yet engaging raconteur, one of the last natty dressers, a loving man who cared deeply about things bigger than him. Though all of these things, he was fond of saying: “one day when standing at the pearly gates and asked to describe myself and my accomplishments I’ll just smile proudly and say; I did Useppa.”