East Tennessee man checkerboards father’s gravesite before Vols rivalry games

Jamie Beckler checkerboards his father's grave.
Jamie Beckler checkerboards his father's grave.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WATE) – You’ve heard of being a Vol For Life, but does that ever stop or go away? One East Tennessee man doesn’t think so. Orange and white traditions have lived on and even been created despite loved ones passing away.

Orange and white is a way of life for Jamie Beckler. Even though he lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, he was raised to be a UT fan.

“God, family, and Tennessee football. Pretty much how it’s always been,” he said.

Making the checkerboard takes about an hour to 90 minutes and lasts a few months.
Making the checkerboard takes about an hour to 90 minutes and lasts a few months.

Out in a cemetery, where it’s peaceful, it’s likely you’ll hear the shaking of a spray paint bottle before a big rivalry game.

“The white is a lot easier. Seems like the white covers better,” said Beckler.

Related: Tennessee plays Alabama in 99th rivalry matchup

He’s not touching up the end zone in Neyland Stadium. He’s checkerboarding his father’s grave. Rickey Beckler passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2008.

“He wasn’t real big on flowers. So, we thought of this and this became a tradition,” said Beckler.

It was a tradition to watch every big orange football game with his dad.

“He was quick with the criticism and also there with the faith that we’d pull through,” Beckler said.

Rickey Beckler passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2008. (source: family)
Rickey Beckler passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2008. (source: family)

That’s why making this checkerboard pattern is so special to this son.

“Hope he’s watching down and rooting for them, especially this season,” said Beckler.

Making the checkerboard takes about an hour to 90 minutes and lasts a few months. Beckler says painting brings him closer to his dad. By the looks of it, there’s no need to wonder if this Vol For Life is happy with how things look.

“He’s got that little grin on his face he had, probably humming Rocky Top too,” said Beckler.

While checkerboarding may seem strange to some, Beckler says people love this idea and friends have asked him to paint their loved one’s plot. Though, Beckler says he only paints with permission from the cemetery.

The family says there’s one memory they still cherish. In 2006-07 while Rickey Beckler was in the hospital, he was able to meet members of UT’s football team. The family says it was the highlight of his life.

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