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RFHS graduate chronicles her life of inspiration

Joanne "Kao" Beckman, 49, has recently written a book, "Groceries on a Saturday Morning: Confessions from Real Life Christianity."

The daughter of Anne and Dr. Charles H.C. Kao, the latter a professor and chairman of the economics department at UWRF from 1964-1998, Beckman graduated from River Falls High School in 1980.

She was very involved in high school, played in several sports and worked on the school newspaper under the guidance of English/journalism teacher Don "DR" Richards.

Beckman sang and played piano for the high school choir and talent shows. She graduated salutatorian of her class.

Beckman now resides in Ann Arbor, Mich., with husband, Paul, an attorney, and their two children, Annie, 14, and Benjamin, 12. She is a speaker, editor, and writer.

Her parents now live in Taipei, Shanghai, and Beijing, where her father is the CEO of Commonwealth Publishing Company.

Her brother Richard graduated from River Falls High School in 1979 and was a senior pastor of City Hill Fellowship in Eden Prairie, Minn., for many years. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

The book is a collection of memoir-like stories, reflecting on the biggest and smallest moments of life, and the unspoken assumptions we make about ourselves, about life, about God.

"For River Falls area readers, two of my eleven essays talk about River Falls in particular," Beckman said. "The title piece, "Groceries on a Saturday Morning," talks about River Falls and the homesickness I experienced when I left family, home, and hometown for good.

"The last essay in the book, "Prelude to All This (The Rest of My Life)," is specifically about growing up in River Falls, including being the only Chinese family (indeed only non-white family) there in the 1960s-70s; my experience of living in small-town America and western Wisconsin; my high school years; how I ended up becoming a Christian despite growing up in an agnostic, Asian-immigrant family.

"Several classmates are referred to and appear in the pages of those pieces.

"The book has been well-received overall by non-Wisconsinites, but many RFHS alumni, old friends and classmates, have also read the book recently and been very positive about it."

Beckman's 166-page book can be bought at Freeman Drug in downtown River Falls or ordered from Amazon.

Beckman can be reached at JoanneBeckman.