When Katherine Becker was a teenager, her family moved to a house off North Territorial Rd. It was in the Chelsea School District, but Dexter was closer, so when she was old enough, she got a job at the Pump & Pantry on Main St. 

“You see the sign saying, ‘Dispense gasoline into approved containers only?’ ” she asks. “There’s a reason for that.” One day a customer filled an open pail with gas—and the fumes ignited while he was waiting in line to pay, damaging a Dodge.

“That was an exciting day,” Becker laughs. But as soon as she finished school, “I couldn’t wait to get out of here.” She rented in Ann Arbor, then bought a house in Ypsilanti Township with a boyfriend. When they broke up a decade ago, she looked for a place of her own. 

She found a house on the side of a hill on Fifth St. It was small and on three levels, but its two garages were just the thing for a fearless motorcyclist who’d ridden everywhere from Alaska to Albania. 

She took up with a fellow rider, Steve Wells, who was also coming out of a long relationship. They were married in 2014 in Delhi Metropark.  

Then, a wrinkle: “I got diagnosed with MS,” Becker says. “I started to have all this mobility trouble,” and stairs became a problem. 

As a teen, Katherine Becker couldn’t wait to leave. Now she loves her accessible home on Alpine St. Photo by J. Adrian Wylie

“But we were really liking Dexter, and we wanted to stay,” she says. They were lucky to find a dilapidated rental house around the corner on Alpine. They bought it and hired Dexter High grad Adam Zylka to tear it down and build them a new, handicapped-accessible home. 

It’s got an elevator for Becker and a big garage where Wells works on a slowly changing collection of old motorcycles. He says he observes Becker’s “very good rule of thumb: no more than three non-running” machines at a time—which leaves room for their electric Chevy Bolt and Becker’s small fleet of electric tricycles. 

When he’s working there with the garage door open, Wells says, he often sees passersby “peer back and … crane their necks,” trying to see what he’s up to. “I just wave them in,” leading to chats and new friendships. And “in the summertime, there’s just thousands of bicyclists.” Last year, they met one at the Riverview Cafe who’d just returned to the U.S. after thirty years overseas and was getting reacquainted with the country by pedaling from Minnesota to Florida.  

Becker’s outings these days are closer to home. “Steve walks, and I’m on my trike, and we wander around Dexter and meet people,” she says. “I just love it.” 

The couple get their hair cut down the block at Sarah’s Family Barber Shop, and with Hackney’s Ace Hardware around the corner, “I don’t have to store a bunch of stuff here in my workshop,” Wells says.  

The Dexter Bakery, Becker’s bank, city hall, the Dexter Pub, and Aubree’s are all within a few blocks. Once, at the Beer Grotto, a man they couldn’t immediately place came up to thank them for investing in Dexter; it turned out to be mayor Shawn Keogh. 

For all their widening circle of Dexter friends, though, Becker says, she has “never yet talked to anyone else who remembers” the fire at the Pump & Pantry.