Dick Becker, who proved instrumental in Ak-Sar-Ben's success in the 1970s and early '80s, died Jan. 7 at an Omaha, Neb., nursing home after a long illness. He was 82Becker served as executive director and general manager of the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, which operated the Omaha track. During his tenure there, Becker oversaw about 3,000 employees and was popular among the track's staff."He was always proud of the fact that he helped a lot of kids through college by giving them summer jobs," former employee Sherman Berg told the Omaha World-Herald about the man who was known for his big smile.A World War II veteran, Becker joined Ak-Sar-Ben in 1963 as director of information and worked his way up to assistant general manager in 1968. He took over as executive director and general manager in 1972. Under his direction, Ak-Sar-Ben regularly ranked among the top 10 tracks in the nation in attendance and wagering.Becker was named to the Thoroughbred Racing Association's board of directors in 1976 and became a vice president in 1981.His survivors include wife Dorothy; son Kenneth; and daughters Patty and Christine.