Gerald Benson

Gerald Benson age 87 of Roberts died suddenly Monday June 20 2011 at his residence. Gerald was born on November 3, 1923 in Darwin, MN (about 50 miles west of the Twin Cities) in the bedroom of a house; lit by kerosene lamps and heated by wood on a farm ‘powered’ by horses. He was the youngest of four boys; Ronald, Lloyd, Karl, and Gerald. After losing the farm during the depression, his father worked for area farmers for a few years until the mid 1930’s when they moved to a farm near Stillwater, MN where his mother was raised. Gerald graduated from Stillwater High School in 1941. He was active in the Methodist Church; belonging to the youth group, singing in the choir, and teaching Sunday School. He worked alongside his father during WWII while his older brother Ronald served in the Army. When Ronald returned, Gerald was drafted and served in the Army and was stationed in Japan. Upon his return, he met Kathleen Welch at an old time dance in the Twin Cities; as he loved old time music and polka dancing. In 1947, a bumper crop of oats enabled him to put a large down payment on a nearby farm. Soon after in 1948, he and Kathleen were married out of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in St. Paul. This union would be blessed with eight children; Ted in 1949, Tom in 1951, Jim in 1952, Robert in 1954, Barbara in 1955, Beverly in 1958, Donald in 1963, and David in 1967. As a young farmer, Gerald embraced new Ag technology and used fertilizer, hybrid seeds, artificial breeding, and chemical weed control. Gerald had a milk route and raised beef and hogs before switching to dairy farming. His barn and house did not have plumbing which made farming a challenge and could only produce Grade B milk shipped in cans as a result. The milkhouse was the first to receive hot water years before the house even did. After years of hard work, he built a Grade A 30 cow barn and was able to furnish plumbing to the house. Moreover, he served on local Ag boards (Dairy Herd Improvement – cow testing) and the local Holstein Breeding Association. He took a break from milking cows in 1973, selling his cows, and cash cropped until 1977. Ted, Tom, and Gerald decided that cash cropping wasn’t as reliable as they hoped, so the three bought a farm near Roberts and developed a 120-150 cow dairy herd which they maintained until 2003. They then sold the cows and Gerald retired two months before turning 80. Gerald farmed because he loved it. It wasn’t about new equipment or making lots of money; rather fixing what he had and simply paying off his bills. He loved the fellowship of neighboring farmers and they enjoyed his friendship also.  Outside of farming, he loved baseball. Whether playing on the local country team or traveling to the Twin Cities to watch a minor league game, he thoroughly enjoyed the sport.   He also enjoyed annual fishing trips with his family as well as trips to Spain, their train ride to Montana, and their Alaskan cruise.

Gerald is preceded in death by his parents Martin and Marilla, brothers Ronald, Lloyd, and Karl Benson, and infant granddaughter Becky Benson. He will remain in the hearts of his wife of 62 years Kathleen, children Theodore (Pamela), Thomas (Jane), James, Robert (Beth), Barbara (Paul), Beverly, Donald (Yolanda), David (Lori); grandchildren Caroline, Bill, Mark (Jennifer), Melinda, Justin, Shelby, Andrew, Amy, Jeff, Charlie, Daniel, Elizabeth, Derek, Allyson, Benjamin, and Drew; and three great grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial will be 11 a.m. Friday June 24 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hammond with Fr. Jerry Harris officiating. Musician, Mary Cody will accompany Sue Hawkins, cantor.  Burial will be in the church cemetery with his grandsons serving as active casketbearers and granddaughters as honorary casketbearers. Visitation will be on Thursday from 4 until 7 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m. at the O’Connell Family Funeral Home in Baldwin and one hour prior to the mass at church on Friday morning. Memorials preferred.

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