A little more than 14 months ago, Richard Behm was having a very good day.
At the July 6, 2010, meeting – after enjoying cake and ice cream – Behm was brought before the podium as Mayor Tom Towey declared the day as Richard Behm Recognition Day.
Behm had every reason to be proud: He’d just seen over two decades of effort come to fruition as it had been announced that federal floodplain maps would be redrawn to benefit those in the Chester Creek area who were suffering from high insurance costs due to too-high base flood elevations.
Behm, characteristically so, was humble about the whole thing.
“I’m just sorry it couldn’t have been done sooner,” he told the council.
But a lot can happen in over a year.
On Sept. 12, in the city that had been his home for since childhood, surrounded by his family, Dick Behm passed away after suffering a stroke following heart bypass surgery. While a shock to family and friends, those who knew Behm best were on hand Tuesday to support family members and Behm’s wife, Ivah, at a memorial service at Redeemer Lutheran Church.
Behm was born on Feb. 17, 1931, in Seattle to Richard Carl Robert Behm, Sr. and Sally Behm. He attended Roosevelt High School and later Pacific Lutheran University and Washington State University.
Shortly after attending college Dick joined the United States Navy, serving for five years during the Korean War as an aviation ordinance instructor.
In 1951, Dick married Ivah Jane Florence. After the war, they moved to Spokane Valley to work for Dick's father at the Behm's Valley Creamery. In 1974, he and Ivah bought the creamery from his father and still had it in operation up until the time of his death.
“Retirement was not an option that held any appeal to him,” Dick’s youngest son, Rob Behm, said at Monday’s service.
Richard Behm was not someone to sit on the sidelines. He had been a member of the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, on the board of directors of the Spokane Valley Business Association, president of the Western Dance Association, and chaperone for the University High School Marching Band's trip to compete for the national championship. He also received the Golden Acorn Award for work with youth in the West Valley School District.
Behm also served on many citizens committees for Spokane County for sewer planning, water quality, aquifer, watersheds and the water quality board.
Behm was also an honorary member of the Spokane Valley City Council, an honor bestowed on him in 2003 for his efforts in helping the city incorporate. Often, however, he did not see eye-to-eye with the city’s policy decisions and was a frequent presence at City Hall to let them know.
“He always wanted me to go to meetings with him,” said Craig Wulf, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, where the Behms attended.
“I wasn’t very good about that. Then I gave him my e-mail address. (After that) I went to every meeting. He told me all about them.”
Several members of the council were present at Behm’s service, and one councilman honored him Tuesday night from the dais.
“He has been one of the statesmen for Spokane Valley,” Bill Gothmann said. “This is a real tough thing for our community. He’s going to be missed greatly.”
Behm was a firm believer that Sprague Avenue should be reverted back to two-way status, as he saw his and other neighboring businesses suffer over the years due to the lack of afternoon drive-home traffic. However, he was opposed to the city ballot measure believing it was the council’s responsibility to make the choice.
“Dad was frequently passionate,” Rob Behm said, “and, of course, stubborn about certain issues. It was the German in him.”
One of Behm’ passions was Scouting and he proudly served as a member for 62 years in the Boy Scouts of America as a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster and many other leadership positions. In 2009, he received his 60-year award from the Boy Scouts of America, Inland Northwest Council.
Rob Behm asked those in attendance at his father’s service to join him in the Boy Scouts salute. Rob also showed off a Scoutmaster’s whistle given to him by Dick, who, in turn, received it from his father.
It was also recounted how Dick Behm was an avid hunter, fisher, boater, and camper.
Behm is survived by his sister, Carol Eliott; his wife of 60 years, Ivah Behm; sons, Ken Behm (Karen) and Rob Behm (Shannon); daughter Karen L. Behm (Dave Bush); three grandsons; one great-granddaughter and one great-grandson.
Following his funeral on Tuesday, Behm’s interment, with full military honors, was at Pines Cemetery in Spokane Valley.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made in memory of Richard Behm Jr. to the Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts of America, 411 W. Boy Scout Way, Spokane, WA 99201 or to the American Diabetes Association.