The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Obituaries

July 6, 2014

Remember Dan Bickey

A comment from the family of Dan Bickey, who died Tuesday, said “he will be terribly missed” by them.

In giving his family our sincerest condolences, we want them to know that he will be terribly missed by Beckley, as well.

Dan was not a native of Beckley, but no one would have guessed that by the way he treated the city.

First he built a successful business, Mine Power Systems, from the ground up.

Just a few years later, he built Harper Industrial Park.

But don’t think that satisfied his drive for very long.

After building the park in 1982, he either built or renovated an average of one building per year. According to his obituary, his belief in the importance of building properties descended from his maternal grandfather, who worked as a barber for 45 years in Connecticut, and owned three apartment buildings.

Because of Dan Bickey, the face of Uptown Beckley looks very different than it might if he had not inherited that belief.

One of his first major renovations was performed on the Bair Building that stands at the corner of North Kanawha and Main streets.

Newspaper stories written as the renovation that restored it to its original 1920s look was completed showed his admiration for such a well-built structure, commenting that if one stepped into a time machine and traveled 500 years into the future, the Bair Building would still be standing.

“This building will stand forever. As I was renovating ... I discovered one of the brick walls was 18-and-a-half inches thick and tapered off down to 12 inches thick on the fourth floor. This building was built to stand for hundreds of years. Our renovations have made the building even stronger and more sturdy than it’s ever been.

“This is a building for the ages.”

His dream for Uptown included specialty shops, green space and more restaurants and entertainment venues. He began to make that dream come true, restoring several Neville Street buildings, turning them into a tavern, a theater and playhouse and other businesses.

But for Dan Bickey, it wasn’t all about the business.

It is said he was fond of restoring buildings on Neville Street because he met his wife Cynthia while she was working the box office at the Beckley Theatre.

He also paid her tribute by installing the Cynthia Bickey Art Gallery in the new Beckley Art Center when it debuted in 2009.

He said he was inspired to do something for his wife after he became ill and needed a donor to supply him with a kidney. That was when his wife stepped up and said she would donate hers.

“I wanted to honor her because she’s a hero,” he said. “I wanted to give her a surprise because she saved my life.”

Dan Bickey’s generosity of spirit will also live on in the eight endowments he and Cynthia established at the Beckley Area Foundation.

BAF Executive Director Susan Landis said he wanted each fund clearly identified for its purpose rather than carry his name.

“He wanted others to realize that all funds at the Foundation are open for additional gifts from anyone who might share his charitable interests.”

In that spirit, his family requested that donations of sympathy be made to one of those endowments by going to RememberingDanBickey.com.

Yes, remembering Dan Bickey that way seems most appropriate to us.

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