Dr. Phil and Molly Becker always knew they wanted to settle in Mitchell.
“I knew when I was in college that I wanted to come back to Mitchell, be an optometrist and live at the lake,” said Phil.
He’s three for three.
Both Phil and Molly are Mitchell natives who graduated from Mitchell High School. Phil went to the University of South Dakota for his undergraduate degree and then attended the University of Missouri St. Louis College of Optometry. Molly also attended USD, and she teaches at G.B. Rogers Elementary School.
Phil knew from an early age that he wanted to work in the medical field. His dad is an anesthesiologist, so he had a feel for the industry. As a high school freshman, Phil had the opportunity to work in the lab at Krall Eye Clinic; he continued working there throughout school.
“Over the years I worked there, they would call me in to see unusual cases,” Phil said. “It was a great way to learn about optometry.”
Dr. Joe Krall of Krall Eye Clinic wanted to make room for Phil at the clinic when he completed his education.
“I want young professionals to move back to Mitchell to help our community grow,” said Joe. “It’s been a fairy tale. He’s efficient and meticulous, and patients love him.”
Molly wanted to follow in her mom’s footsteps and become a teacher.
“I used to play school in her classroom after school when I was a kid,” she said.
Molly’s education included being the first USD elementary education student to student-teach in Mitchell. She spent her time at G.B. Rogers.
Fast forward a few years, and now Molly and Phil are back to the places where they first experienced their careers.
As a team teacher working with third through fifth graders, Molly enjoys working collaboratively with her colleagues, and she appreciates the value in a multiage classroom.
“We don’t really worry about grade level, but rather what the students know,” she said. “Our desire is to reach kids where they’re at so they can grow.”
Phil and Molly married in 2016 and lived in St. Louis while Phil completed his education. Although they enjoyed the activities available in a city, neither of them wanted the lifestyle.
“In Mitchell, you wave at people when you’re driving, and you have full conversations in the grocery store,” said Molly. “In St. Louis, people look at you strangely if you wave at them.”
While Phil was completing his rotations in St. Louis, Wichita and Sioux Falls, Molly moved back to Mitchell to start her career. Phil joined her after graduation in 2018, and in February this year, they became parents to their son, Trace.
They agree that having two sets of grandparents in town is a great benefit.
“It’s so nice to be able to share Trace’s milestones with his grandparents when they happen,” said Molly. “And they have certain days of the week when they pick him up from daycare to spend time with him.”
The Beckers appreciate the growth and change in their hometown during the years they were away.
“The Sixth Avenue Plaza next to the Corn Palace, the new Performing Arts Center, DWU, MTI and Avera facilities are all new in the last eight years,” said Phil. “It’s really impressive.”
The Beckers have enjoyed getting reacquainted with high school friends who live in Mitchell. Phil serves on the United Way board, and these former MHS Show Choir participants used their dancing talents to help support LifeQuest’s Dancing for Dreams fundraiser earlier this year.
“We think it’s important to give back to those things we gained so much from when we were in school,” said Molly.
“We knew when we were in high school that we’d be back here someday,” said Phil. “To us, ‘home’ means Mitchell.”
Photo: Phil, Molly and Trace Becker (photo credit: Maddie Peschong Photography)