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Benjamin Franklin Benkelman, Jr.

Benjamin Franklin Benkelman, Jr.

Male 1899 - 1998  (98 years)

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  • Name Benjamin Franklin Benkelman  [1
    Suffix Jr. 
    Born 17 Nov 1899  Jaqua, Cheyenne County, Kansas Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Died 8 Mar 1998  Houston, Harris County, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Buried Elkland Township Cemetery, Cass City, Tuscola County, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    •      Benjamin Franklin Benkelman, Jr.  was born in 1899 in a sod hut on the JC Ranch in Jacqua, Kansas. His father, Ben, Sr., had moved to Kansas from Michigan to work for his Uncle at the ranch, and had spent nearly 20 years working as a cowboy. Ben and his three older brothers and sisters were all born on the ranch. In 1901, the family relocated back to Cass City, Michigan, where they purchased a general merchandise store. Ben remembers working at the store as soon as he was old enough to see over the counter. They sold dry goods, groceries, shoes, and crockeries. Ben recalled that the customers just pointed out what they wanted, and it was the clerks job to go gather everything. "We really worked in those days" he said. He remembers making deliveries in a red coaster wagon or by horse and buggy. The horse was named Topsy. Ben said he was the only one of the children who helped his parent's in their store. His other brothers and sisters didn't want to have anything to do with it.

           In High School Ben was a star athlete. He was on the baseball, basketball, football, and track teams--four years each, earning a total of 16 letters. He even set several state track records. He graduated from High School during World War I. Fortunately, the war ended a only a few weeks before he was to report for military duty. He went to Kalamazoo College on a football scholarship. His team were the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Champions (MIAA) in 1919. The MIAA is the Nation's Oldest Collegiate Conference.

           Ben recalls that one of the games he played was against "the Gipper," who played at the University of Notre Dame. Born in 1895, George Gipp was a varsity athlete at Notre Dame from 1917 to 1920. While planning to pursue a career in baseball, he was convinced by legendary college coach Knute Rockne to play football as well. He led the Fighting Irish to a 27-2-3 record, playing both offense and defense. Several of his records still stand today. Gipp caught a throat infection during one of his final football games at Notre Dame. He died a few weeks later at the age of 25. Just before his death, he told Coach Rockne, "Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys - tell them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."

           After a year of college, Ben returned to Cass City to help his parents with the store. He later went to work at the Nestle plant in Cass City. Nestles food had purchased the plant from Hires Milk company around 1922. This plant had been producing "sweetened" condensed milk in Cass City since 1917, employing from 50-100 persons with most of their output being exported. The plant had been  established at the urging of a group of local businessmen whose objective was to encourage and secure a milk processing plant to give the local farmers, almost all who had a small dairy herd, an easier way to dispose of their milk.

           While working in Cass City, Ben was on the "Ward's Independents" Basketball Team and they were 'Thumb Champions, Michigan' for the 1921-1922 season.

           A mutual friend set Ben up on a blind date with Avis Smith, a schoolteacher in a nearby town. This was in 1924. When he arrived to the boarding house to pick her up, she peeked over the balcony to check him out. She had made arrangements with a friend to watch for her signal. If Ben didn't pass muster, the friend was to inform him Avis was sick in bed. He passed with flying colors, however, and they drove nearly 20 miles for Chinese food.

           Around this same time, Ben enrolled in a dental technician's program in Chicago. He worked his way through school as a waiter at "Child's One Arm Restaurant." The restaurant was named for the tables the diner's each sat at, similar to old fashioned school desks.

           The following article about his studies appeared in the January 8, 1926 issue of the Cass City Chronicle "Ben Benkelman, jr., has completed his studies at the McCarrie School of Mechanical Dentistry at Chicago and is now assisting Dr. P.A. Schenck in the latter's dental parlors where he is gaining practical experience in his chosen work."

           Ben and Avis were married in August, 1926. Seven years later, on December 8, 1933, their only child, Bonnie, was born.

           Despite being born in the midst of the depression, Bonnie remembers an idyllic childhood. By lucky accident, her father withdrew their life savings from the bank the day before the great bank crash. He took out their savings to buy a winter coat and chair. When he returned to redeposit the balance, the banks had all closed. Ben remained steadily employed, running the dental lab for Dr. Pearl Schenck and then Dr. D.E. Rawson. He was employed by them for 42 years. The Benkelman's owned a house in Cass City, and a cabin in Caseville, on Lake Huron. Ben served on the village council for 11 years, and was twice village president (Mayor). He was never too busy for his daughter though. Bonnie remembers her father helping her, along with half the football team, with their math homework throughout high school.

           He was a charter member of the Cass City Gavel Club, and Past Master and Life Member of the Tyler F&AM lodge.

           When Ben was in his thirties, he went on a strict diet due to problems with his gallbladder. He abstained from sugar and fat for nearly 30 years. This, and his love of sports, probably contributed to his longetivity. He was able to play golf into his late eighties, and walked every morning and evening until he was nearly 96.

          Volume 26 of the STIFFLER-BENKELMAN BROADCAST, published on September 5, 1966, reported that Ben retired "after 40 years as a Dental Technician. He and Avis were going to spend the winter in Houston, Texas with their daughter and family."

          When the McLemore's were transferred back to Chicago, Ben and Avis moved onto St. Petersburg, Florida. They lived in a retirement community. They were to fulfill a dream when the visited Hawaii for their 50 wedding anniversary. They also enjoyed a Caribbean Cruise together. Ben had surgery for both kidney cancer and prostate cancer, both of which never reocurred. Avis died in 1981, and Ben lived in Florida for seven more years. After he suffered several minor strokes, he decided to move back to Houston, where the McLemore's had returned. This was around 1988. He lived in a retirement community on his own for several more years.

           Ben's biggest fear was that his mind would deteriorate before his body, and sadly this came to pass. Around 1994, suffering from senile dementia and Alzheimer's, Ben moved into his daughter's home. Here he was to live until he died from complications from pneumonia in early 1998. His daughter, Bonnie, and granddaughters, Melinda and Leigh were at his bedside when he died.

      Written by Melinda McLemore Strong, granddaughter, circa 1995 and revised periodically.

      He was one the family members BonnieMargaret Jacobs personally interviewed when preparing her history of the Benkelman family. [3]
    • (Medical):Cerebrovascular disease, chronic renal failure, Alzheimers disease, kidney and prostate cancer in remission
    Person ID I17  Strong Family Tree
    Last Modified 17 Aug 2014 

    Father Benjamin Franklin Benkelman, Sr.,   b. 24 Sep 1863, Bowmansville, Town of Lancaster, Erie County, New York Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Sep 1952, Cass City, Tuscola County, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 88 years) 
    Mother Wilhelmina "Minnie" Johanna Friederika Jesse,   b. 27 Sep 1865, Sherman Township, St. Joseph County, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Jun 1961, Cass City, Tuscola County, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 95 years) 
    Married 26 Dec 1892  St. Francis, Cheyenne County, Kansas Find all individuals with events at this location  [4, 5, 6
    Photos
    Benkelman General Store (Ben F. Benkelman, Sr. Proprietor), Cass City, Michigan, ca 1901-1924
    Benkelman General Store (Ben F. Benkelman, Sr. Proprietor), Cass City, Michigan, ca 1901-1924
    After retiring from ranching, Ben Benkelman Sr. owned and operated a dry goods store in his hometown of Cass City for approximately twenty years. Ben Sr. is standing in the background of this photo. In the foreground is Mr. Philo S. Rice, who clerked at the Benkelman store for 19 years, and was proprietor of his own grocery store for nearly six years thereafter. He was born on Stuben, NY on 5 Dec 1863, and died in Cass City on 8 Oct 1928, leaving behind his widow, Carrie Fancher Rice and two children, Mrs. A. C. Atwell of Cass City and Roy F. Rice of Los Angeles. (Cass City Chronicle, 12 Oct 1928, page 1).
    Benkelman General Store (Ben F. Benkelman, Sr. Proprietor), Cass City, Michigan ca 1920's
    Benkelman General Store (Ben F. Benkelman, Sr. Proprietor), Cass City, Michigan ca 1920's
    The interior of Ben Benkelman's general store in Cass City, with store clerk Philo S. Rice standing on the left. The lady to the right is unknown. PLEASE EMAIL US IF YOU CAN IDENTIFY HER.
    Benkelman, Benjamin F. Sr. ca 1913 and Minnie (Jesse) Family of Cass City, Michigan
    Benkelman, Benjamin F. Sr. ca 1913 and Minnie (Jesse) Family of Cass City, Michigan
    Back, L to R: Ruth, Mae, Harold "Sime" and Ben, Jr.
    Front, L to R: Ben, Sr., Lois, Minnie
    Benkelman, Benjamin F. Sr. ca 1917 and Minnie (Jesse) Family of Cass City, Michigan
    Benkelman, Benjamin F. Sr. ca 1917 and Minnie (Jesse) Family of Cass City, Michigan
    Standing (L To R): Ruth, Mae, Harold, Ben Jr., Lois
    Seated (L to R): Ben Sr. and his wife, Minnie
    Benkelman Home (Ben and Minnie Family), Cass City, Michigan, sometime after 1901
    Benkelman Home (Ben and Minnie Family), Cass City, Michigan, sometime after 1901
    The home of Ben and Minnie Benkelman family of at 1454 Maple Street, Cass City, Michigan.
    Documents
    Jesse, Minnie 1892 Marriage to Benjamin Benkelman,Sr.
    Jesse, Minnie 1892 Marriage to Benjamin Benkelman,Sr.
    Copy of Marriage License as filed in 1892 in Cheyenne County, Kansas in 1892
    Family ID F16  Group Sheet  |  Family chart

    Family Avis Augusta Smith,   b. 4 Apr 1901, Odessa Township, Ionia County, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Nov 1981, St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 80 years) 
    Married 24 Aug 1926  Grand Ledge, Eaton County, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  [7, 8
    • Per the Certificate of Marriage between Ben F. Benkelman and Avis A. Smith, the couple were joined in marriage at Grand Ledge, County of Eaton, Michigan, on the 24th day of August, A.D. 1926, in the presence of Wm B. Smith and Ida Smith of Grand Ledge (the bride's parents) as witnesses. The clergyman officiating was Ernst R. Lactham, Pastor of the Congregational Church.
    Children 
     1. Living
    Documents
    Smith, Avis Augusta marriage to Ben Benkelman
    Smith, Avis Augusta marriage to Ben Benkelman
    Marriage License issued in Eaton County, Michigan
    Smith, Avis Augusta Family Bible, p 4 of 4
    Smith, Avis Augusta Family Bible, p 4 of 4
    Marriages information, listing the marriage of Avis to Ben Benkelman, as well as the marriage of their only child, Bonnie
    Benkelman, Ben and Avis Home, 1920's through 1940's
    Benkelman, Ben and Avis Home, 1920's through 1940's
    The home of Ben and Avis Benkelman, 4354 Woodland, Cass City, Michigan ca 1940's
    Benkelman, Ben and Avis Home, 1940's through 1960's
    Benkelman, Ben and Avis Home, 1940's through 1960's
    The Benkelman Home on West Street in Cass City. This was the home the Benkelman's moved to when Bonnie was in High School, and this photo of it was taken in the late 1950's.
    Benkelman, Ben and Avis, Lake Huron Weekend Cottage
    Benkelman, Ben and Avis, Lake Huron Weekend Cottage
    Ben and Avis's summer cottage, Sand Point, Caseville, Michigan on Huron Bay
    Last Modified 9 Dec 2006 
    Family ID F12  Group Sheet  |  Family chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 17 Nov 1899 - Jaqua, Cheyenne County, Kansas Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 24 Aug 1926 - Grand Ledge, Eaton County, Michigan Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 8 Mar 1998 - Houston, Harris County, Texas Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Elkland Township Cemetery, Cass City, Tuscola County, Michigan Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1900
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1900
    Ben as an infant in St. Francis, Kansas
    Benkelman Family Sod Hut (Ben and Minnie Family), Cheyenne County, Kansas 
ca 1902
    Benkelman Family Sod Hut (Ben and Minnie Family), Cheyenne County, Kansas ca 1902
    (L to R): Harold "Sime" on horseback, Ben Benkelman holding the hand of his son Ben Jr., Minnie Benkelman nee Jesse, and daughters Ruth and Mae. This picture was taken in Kansas shortly before the family moved to Ben's home town of Cass City, Michigan where he opened a general store. After spending twenty years as a cowboy and rancher at the Kansas/Nebraska/Colorado border, Ben was again ready for the comforts of civilization.
    _Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr.
    _Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr.
    Husband of Avis Augusta Smith
    B. 1899 Kansas D. 1998 Texas
    Benkelman, Adam and Anna Catherine (Schaufele) Descendants ca 1912 Family Reunion
    Benkelman, Adam and Anna Catherine (Schaufele) Descendants ca 1912 Family Reunion
    Back, Standing, l to r: Mae Benkelman, Kate Schwegler, John Benkelman Sr., Ester Ackerman Benkelman, Minnie Jesse Benkelman, Joe Benkelman, Augusta Krehl Benkelman, Dorus Benkelman, Will Schwegler, Ward Benkelman, Ben Schwegler, Sam Benkelman

    Middle Row, kneeling, l to r: Alvin Benkelman, Harold Benkelman, Ruth Benkelman, Marie Benkelman (standing), Lena Benkelman Schwegler, Barbara Rommel Benkelman, Louisa Benkelman Schwegler

    Bottom Row, seated, l to r: Bertha Benkelman, Glen Benkelman, Ida Benkelman, Lottie Benkelman, Ben Benkelman Sr. behind his nephew John Donald Benkelman, Lois Benkelman, Ben Benkelman Jr., Alice Ross Schwegler with her baby Edward William Schwegler, and ,facing left, Mary Striffler Benkelman (Mrs. Sam)

    (Legend Courtesy of Bonnie-Margaret Benkelman Jacobs)
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1919 --Kalamazoo College Football Team, MIAA Champions
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1919 --Kalamazoo College Football Team, MIAA Champions
    In High School, Ben was a star athlete. He was on the baseball, basketball, football, and track teams--four years each, earning a total of 16 letters. He went to Kalamazoo College on a football scholarship. They were the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Champions in 1919. The MIAA is the Nation's oldest collegiate conference. Ben recalls that one of the games he played was against "the Gipper," the legendary George Gipp of the University of Notre Dame. After a year of college, he returned to Cass City to help his parents close their general store. Ben is on the front row, seated, and is the fifth player from the right hand side (seventh from the left). Jason Mann, a collector of vintage sports team photos, purchased an identical copy of this photo on Ebay. His copy has a roster of the players, as well as the results for 1919 season, written on the back. A scan of this identifying information follows.
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1919 --Kalamazoo College Football Team, MIAA Champions, Back of Photo, Team Roster and Results for the Season
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1919 --Kalamazoo College Football Team, MIAA Champions, Back of Photo, Team Roster and Results for the Season
    Ben Benkelman went to Kalamazoo College on a football scholarship. In 1919 his team were champions of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), the nation's oldest collegiate conference. Jason Mann, a collector of vintage sports team photos, purchased an identical copy of this photo on Ebay. On the back of his copy was a roster of the players, along with the results for 1919 season, written on the back.
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1922--Michigan Basketball Thumb Champions
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1922--Michigan Basketball Thumb Champions
    "Here they are: Members of Ward's Independent team of Cass City who have just completed their schedule of games for the season, winning 22 out of 24 contests. Upper row, left to right--Glen BIXBY, secretary-treasurer; 'Abbie' WARD, ass't manager; P.E. FLEMING [Pearl Flemming]; Andrew ['Hump'] CHAMPION; Wm. WARD, manager. Lower Row: Clarence ['Bud'] BURT, Capt. Ben BENKELMAN and Frank CHAMPION, coach. At the coach's feet, Pat, the mascot."

    This photo was from a newspaper article published in the Cass City paper on Friday, March 23, 1922. A copy of the actual newspaper article that accompanied the photo was kindly provided by Carol Bokas.
    Benkelman, Benjamin F. Sr. ca 1920's with his children and their spouses
    Benkelman, Benjamin F. Sr. ca 1920's with his children and their spouses
    Back Row, L to R:
    Bill Carpenter, Ben Benkelman, Sr., Ben Benkelman, Jr., Jim Pease, Minnie Benkelman, Eustace Ball, Harold Benkelman in the late 1920's.

    Front Row, L to R:
    Mae Benkelman Carpenter, Lois Benkelman Pease, Ruth Benkelman Ball, Isabel Fletcher Benkelman, Avis Smith Benkelman
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    Jesse, Minnie ca 1960, with her children on her 95th birthday
    Jesse, Minnie ca 1960, with her children on her 95th birthday
    L to R: Ben Jr standing behind his sisters Lois and Ruth, Minnie, Mae and Sime

    The paintings behind the group were all done by Minnie herself, who took up painting as a hobby shortly after her 87th birthday.
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1962, Cass City
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1962, Cass City
    Ben in Cass City, shortly before his retirement
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1976 with wife Avis (nee Smith)
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1976 with wife Avis (nee Smith)
    Ben and Avis ready to depart on a Cruise in celebration of their Golden Wedding anniversary, 1976
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.

    Documents
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr Affadavit of Birth
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr Affadavit of Birth
    This affadavit of birth in Cheyenne County, Kansas, was filed almost 40 years after Ben was born in 1899.
    Sandham, John Insurance Policy
    Sandham, John Insurance Policy
    Ben and Avis purchased this insurance policy from John A. Sandham, an agent for Lincoln Life Insurance, in 1932
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1966, News article regarding retirement
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. ca 1966, News article regarding retirement
    "Civic Leader Ends Cass City Career"

    From the Cass City (Michigan) Chronicle,
    Thursday, October 27, 1966
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr.
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr.
    Application for Social Security payments after Ben's retirement
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. Death Certificate
    Benkelman, Benjamin Franklin Jr. Death Certificate
    As filed in Houston, Harris County, Texas

    Headstones
    Benkelman, Benjamin, Jr. and Avis (Smith)
    Benkelman, Benjamin, Jr. and Avis (Smith)

  • Sources 
    1. [S381] State of Kansas, Delayed Birth Certificate.

    2. [S418] Texas Department of Health, Death Certificate.

    3. [S560] Cass City Area Historical & Genealogy Society, "The Way it Was", "The Nestles Plant's History" Vol. 12 January/February 200 7 Number 1 (Reliability: 3).

    4. [S452] State of Kansas, Cheyenne County, Marriage License.

    5. [S653] Cass City Chronicle, P.O. Box 115, Cass City, Michigan 48726, Published continously since 1899, archived from 1899 through 2005 at http://newspapers.rawson.lib.mi.us/chronicle/, September 15, 1962 (Reliability: 3).

    6. [S1610] Jacobs, BonnieMargaret McDonald "The Family Benkelman" Unpublished Manuscript, 276 pages, October 1981 Version, (Copy owned by Barney Benkelman, Helena, Montana; which he xeroxed and sent to Melinda McLemore Strong in San Antonio, Texas), p. 134, instead shows location of marriage as Wano, Kansas (Reliability: 3).

    7. [S38] State of Michigan, Marriage License, (Eaton County, Mich Marriage License of Ben F. Benkelman Jr to Avis A. Smith, No. 155).

    8. [S81] Family Register, The Holy Bible, National Bible Press, Philadelphia, Pa. Presented to Avis Smith by her parents, December 25, 1920.