Roger K. Bechtel died on May 10, 2021, in Tucson, Arizona
(The following was published by My Keeper)
Roger K. Bechtel, 62, passed away at 2:30 am on May 10, 2021. He was at his home in Tucson, AZ, surrounded by love. He departed this shore with courage and dignity after a brief but intense battle with ALS.
Born in Indianapolis, IN on November 19, 1958, he was the son of the late Carroll Bechtel and Shirley Hawkins Bechtel. He was a 1981 graduate of DePauw University, and he also had degrees from NYU Law (J.D., 1986), Yale University School of Drama (M.F.A., 1989) and Cornell University (Ph.D., 1999).
Possessed with a brilliant mind and driven by lifelong curiosity, Roger traversed a distinguished and adventurous career path in arts, letters and the law. As an actor he appeared in productions at the Red Barn Theatre, Detroit Repertory Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Minneapolis Fringe Festival and many other regional and Off-Broadway venues. He was a published author and playwright, as well as an award-winning director, staging productions in Minneapolis, Chicago, Portland, Anchorage and New York, and founding the experimental theater groups Zeitgeist Café Theater in New York City, and the Big Picture Group in Chicago. With a lifelong passion for Shakespeare, his proudest achievement in the theater was playing Hamlet, a feat he accomplished three times. He was a voracious reader whose favorite writers included Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky and Roberto Bolaño, as well as a lifelong competitive runner, having completed multiple marathons including New York City, Twin Cities, California International, Marine Corps and Rocket City.
For nearly two decades Professor Bechtel was an inspirational educator for artistic young minds studying acting and directing. He taught at Illinois Wesleyan University, Miami University of Ohio, Bowdoin College, and Carleton College, where he was head of the theater and dance department when he retired from academia in 2018. At age sixty, and over thirty years after graduating from NYU Law School, Roger fulfilled another lifelong goal by passing the Minnesota Bar exam and becoming a public defender in Crow Wing County, MN, providing legal representation for individuals who would not otherwise be able to afford a private attorney.
Despite the devastating ALS diagnosis Roger faced his final challenge with the same grit and resourcefulness that marked the chosen challenges of his life, and he remained engaged, in the moment, and intellectually active until the end. In the final months of his life, he wrote several chapters of his autobiographical manuscript, read numerous books on spiritual teachings, and expanded upon a lifelong curiosity of Buddhist writings and philosophy.
Roger cherished words, language, and literature, but words alone cannot convey the impact on others of a life so well lived. He was a fiercely loyal friend, a deeply dedicated husband, a loving and devoted father. He was endlessly curious, eternally amazed, fastidiously organized, tireless, funny, and fun. He was a seeker and defender of truth, and an outraged unveiler of injustice. He was possessed of a diamond wit. He was tenacious, brilliant, determined, occasionally irascible. He was a true friend. His warm and resonant Shakespearean voice left a palpable aural imprint that ever rings on in the ears of all who knew and loved him. The distorted and displaced atoms from Roger’s enormous presence, gigantic smile, mellifluous voice, piercing intellect, and generous spirit will not soon regain their shape.
Roger is survived by his wife, Christin Lindberg; his children, Harper Bechtel and Carson Bechtel (Northfield, MN); sister, Beth Miller (Carmel, IN), nieces Mimi Caron, Skylar Thompson and nephews Derek Caron, Dexter Caron, Hunter Caron, and Graham Caron. He is also survived by best friends, Michael McCarty, Gordon Reinhart, and Helen Stotler.