Millions of Minnesotans hold driver's licenses and state identification cards, and Becky Mechtel had a hand in nearly every one of them.
For 47 years, Mechtel worked behind the scenes at Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS), going the extra mile to make the onerous task of obtaining the necessary documents easier and ensuring Minnesotans got what they needed.
"She embodied the spirit of public service," said Jen Longaecker, deputy communications director for the Department of Public Safety, which includes DVS. "People will never know Becky, but her work affected their lives. People in Minnesota should be glad she was there."
Mechtel died April 10 in her St. Paul home. An official cause of death has not been determined, said her brother, Ken Mechtel. She was 66.
Becky Mechtel arrived at DVS shortly after graduating from Harding High School, where she starred in debate. She was a communications specialist who worked on numerous difficult and complex projects over the years. Most recently, Mechtel was part of a team that implemented MnDRIVE, the state's new vehicle registration and licensing system that replaced the troubled Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS).
"She really liked what she was doing," her brother said.
Though her name never appeared on letters DVS sent to customers, Mechtel's prose was reflected in the correspondence. She used her strong writing skills to transform legalese-sounding instructions into plain language so it was easier for customers to know what to do, Longaecker said.
"She was proud of the work she did and knew it was important," Longaecker said. After more than four decades, "you could lose that focus, and she never did."
Known for her laugh that could make even the crabbiest person smile, Mechtel had a deep love of music. She was a member of a choir in White Bear Lake and also sang in the choir at St. Ambrose Catholic Community in Woodbury. Her soprano voice was unmistakable, her brother said.
Once, he asked Becky to stop practicing because a friend he had over was taking a nap. When she did stop, the friend wanted her to continue. "It was like listening to an angel," Ken Mechtel recalled the friend saying.
Becky Mechtel loved to cook and "was fearless with food," said her niece, Susan Mechtel, noting her aunt watched YouTube videos and public television programs such as "America's Test Kitchen" to find and try new recipes. For family gatherings, she hosted tiki-themed parties that included a variety of gourmet hot dogs. She baked many variations of pies. And her seafood boils with crawfish from Louisiana were often a summer highlight, Susan Mechtel said.
"She'd make anything," her niece said. "I never remember food that was not good."
Devoted to family and her job, Becky "was kind to a fault, generous to a fault and didn't hold grudges," her brother said.
In addition to her brother, Ken, of Blaine, Mechtel is survived by a sister, Julie Swanson, of St. Paul. Services have been held.