When people asked Dorothy Beckett the recipe for her long life, she answered: sports, sherry and dark chocolate.
Recent studies about the health value of dark chocolate notwithstanding, it's the sports that shaped Beckett's life. As a young woman in England, she made headlines as a tennis star, competing in Wimbledon several times in the early 1930s. And in her second half of life in Palo Alto, she was an avid hiker and longtime member of the Palo Alto Lawn Bowls Club.
Beckett, born Dorothy Crichton, died Sept. 6 of complications from surgery at Stanford Hospital after a fall in her home at Sunrise Assisted Living of Palo Alto. She was 104.
Born and raised in England, Beckett was an athlete from an early age, said her niece, Pat Morcott. She made newspaper headlines in Essex for her tennis exploits, and in winter she played field hockey and badminton.
In 1932 and 1933, she advanced to the second round at Wimbledon, and she lost in the first round in 1934, according to the Web site TennisForum.com. When not competing in athletics, she worked as a bookkeeper, and she drove an ambulance in World War II, Morcott said.
At age 50, she followed her well-traveled brother across the sea to Palo Alto, where she traded tennis for hiking, Morcott said. She met outdoorsman Richard Beckett, a postal worker, at a Sierra Club outing, and they married in 1968 and moved into his family's home on Ramona
"She's been up just about every mountain in the state," Morcott said. "She was a real hiker and camper. That was what they liked to do."
She outlived her husband by 21 years, Morcott said, living in the same house until two years ago, when she moved to Sunrise. Through the decades she attended All Saints' Episcopal Church on Waverley Street.
In her last years, with her faculties failing, she refused a wheelchair, preferring a walker, Morcott said.
"She was a tough one. She was very close to blind and very deaf," Morcott said. "The last few years were, I'm sure, a trial to her, but she didn't complain."
Beckett is survived by Morcott and two great-nieces and a great-nephew, among others. Services will be Oct. 11 at All Saints' Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St., Palo Alto.