Wes Benke passed away peacefully in his sleep on January 3, 2021.
Wes was born June 9, 1930 in his home in Elkhorn, NE. He was the middle child of seven children of Alvina and Henry Benke. He grew up in a two-bedroom house without running water . The five boys shared one bedroom and the two girls shared the other bedroom with their mother. In the winter, the house was so poorly insulated, they would wake up with frost covering their blankets.
Wes shared many stories of his childhood. Every Saturday he would have to walk across the street to his grandparent’s house and haul back bath water. He was also assigned the task of walking the railroad tracks to pick up coal that fell off the trains to heat the house. During winter break, Wes’s baseball coach would give him the school Christmas tree to bring home for his family; and he always looked forward to getting his one pair of overalls from his mother and oranges from his town as his only Christmas gifts. He remembers eating goose grease sandwiches and in the summer going barefoot in order to save his shoes for school. He always laughed at weighing 115 lbs. when he graduated from high school. As a teenager, Wes had some very interesting jobs that included washing dairy cow’s tails, hand-setting bowling pins before they were automated, and running a 90 lb. jackhammer, that weighed almost as much as he did.
Wes fell in love with Mary, a local girl, who would wait on him at the town café. They were married fifty-six years before she passed away from ALS in 2011.
Throughout his life, Wes took amazing care of his mother. He sent money from his time in Korea to support her and throughout her life he would stop and check on her at least two times a day.
He was especially proud of a few things: working 35 years at Frank’s Conoco without taking a sick day, spending 18 months in Korea with the army, being saved at a Billy Graham revival in 1966, and helping start ‘Our Saviors Baptist Church’ in the basement of his house.
Wes retired in 1990 at 60 years old. He and Mary moved to Idaho, to be near his son, where they bought a small farm. Wes enjoyed farming and raising cattle, which he did until Mary needed full time medical care.
People remember Frank’s Conoco as the place to be in the mornings. There was always a handful of people sitting around talking and laughing before they had to go to work. Wes always seemed to be the ringleader and had a tease or a joke for every occasion. He loved to have fun.
Wes loved baseball, playing with his grandkids, farming and yes - teasing and telling jokes. He remembers starting to play baseball at eight years old. He was a pitcher and a good one. People who watched him, said he was one of the best they ever saw. He could remember all the players he played with and the games he pitched. He either played or coached baseball most of his life. His favorite team was the St. Louis Cardinals. Towards the end of his life, he enjoyed watching the Cardinals play on TV. Until the very last day of his life, he would never tire of playing catch.
Wes’s joyful spirit, laughter, playful teasing, and bad jokes will be dearly missed by his friends and family.
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