Federal Way veteran turns 100 on centennial of WWI ending

Man recalls life, Air Force pilot experience

Ben Benson remembers the first time he watched a T.V. program, and he doesn’t understand the deal about smartphones.

“Now what’s all this about,” he asked as he pointed to a smartphone.

At 100 years old Nov. 9 — which coincides with the 100-year anniversary of the ending of WWI — Benson is still smiling, and he loves talking about everything he’s seen in his life.

His youngest daughter, Beverly Smith, and him spoke about the good days when they used to go fishing and camping together.

“Those trips are my favorite memories,” Smith said.

Before taking camping trips with his favorite fishing buddy, the former Auburn resident who now lives at Village Green in Federal Way, spoke about Nov. 9, 1918 in South Dakota.

Just three days before Benson was born, his father passed away from the Spanish influenza, the same fever that took his mother the day after she had him. Three days after his birth, Benson said he was adopted by a kind couple — the county sherriff and his wife.

Benson also had three older sisters, who he said were taken in by a politician in the area, but only as a ploy to help him win re-election.

Benson was still very close to his older sister despite living with different guardians, but they have since passed away.

Benson’s had a long, happy life, and while it may be getting harder for him to remember certain things, there are others he’ll never forget.

He witnessed firsthand the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986, and his daughter, Beverly Smith, said she has a series of photographs he took of the event.

Benson was an avid photographer when he was younger, and spent a lot of time traveling with his family.

He worked in training command in the Air Force in the mid-1940s, so while he never saw any combat, he trained other recruits who served during World War II.

Before he was a pilot in the Air Force, Benson flew small commercial planes at Compton Airport in California.

“I wanted to be a fighter pilot,” said Benson, who plans to participate in the city of Auburn’s Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 10 in full uniform.

He left the military after the war ended, bringing his total years in the service at two.

But Benson wasn’t finished yet.

After the service, he worked for about a year-and-a-half at Boeing in Seattle helping construct B17s and B29s, later moving to Roar Aircraft, finishing his career with planes after 10 years.

And further still, he opened Auburn’s first laundromat, which served the community for 10 to 15 years.

Now Auburn and the surrounding areas are much larger and more developed, and Benson loved talking with Beverly about how things were when he first moved there.

“A lot can change in 100 years,” Beverly said.

One of his favorite memories was going to baseball games with his father.

Benson said that when people would buy food or drinks from vendors, sometimes their coins would fall through the bleachers.

“After the game, we would go under the bleachers and pick up the dropped quarters,” he chuckled. “Sometimes we’d come away with a few dollars.”

Benson laughed with his daughter, thinking back on those happy times with the man who adopted him.

And of course, Benson won’t forget his beautiful wife Nila, who sadly passed away seven years ago.

“She had a really good voice,” Beverly said.

She said they met at a YMCA, and her singing caught Benson’s attention. They were married for 73 years.

More in News

Federal Way tax preparer sentenced to 1 year in false tax returns scheme

Defendant’s clients were primarily immigrants with little knowledge of the tax system and limited language skills.

Federal Way Council candidate declines Democrats’ endorsement after they censured her

Sharry Edwards to move forward as an independent after her questionable behavior, stance on drug use led to divide with Democrats.

Back to school drive set for Saturday at Federal Way High School

In addition to the backpack and clothing giveaway, beautician school volunteers, homeless and housing assistance resources, various labor unions will host workshops and more.

Woman faces vehicular homicide charges after female dies in DUI crash on I-5

An 18-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the crash after one person died and another was seriously injured.

$1M worth of cocaine found in banana boxes at Western Washington Safeway stores

The drugs were discovered on Sunday at the South 320th Street Federal Way grocery store location.

Prosecutors: Federal Way teen who fatally stabbed mother’s boyfriend will not be charged

16-year-old girl acted in self-defense during an argument over cooking breakfast, according to police investigation.

King County awards $1.5M to South King County Senior Centers and Resources to help serve diverse population

Twenty-eight senior centers will form 14 hubs for targeted senior services around the region.

Building community out of Legos at Federal Way’s Movies in the Park

Community gathers at Town Square Park for showing of “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.”

Redondo Pier to remain closed through August

The Des Moines Council will discuss repair plans at the Sept. 5 meeting.

Most Read