Richard Dale Benjamin, 88, of Olathe, Kansas, passed away on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, at his home in Aberdeen Village. He was born on June 25, 1933, in Garnett, Kansas, to James “Spike” and Dorotha (Whaley) Benjamin.
Richard was the third of six children of Spike and Dorotha and grew up on the family farm milking cows and tending fields. He and his brothers all played football and basketball for Welda High School, which may be where he got his love for those two games, especially football. If the stories are true, he may have been a bit of a troublemaker at school but managed to graduate from Welda High School in 1951 as Valedictorian.
Richard met Kay Riley at a box supper, where he bid on her dinner. She drove out to the farm the next day to thank him, and the rest is history. They were married on May 24, 1953, right after Kay graduated high school. Just a few weeks into their marriage, Richard was drafted to go to Korea. Though the Army drafted him, he was attached to the Air Force, where he worked to help build Kimpo Air Force Base driving an earth mover. He also ran a carpenter shop on the base, putting the carpentry skills he gained in high school to use. He was honorably discharged as a Corporal in 1955 and returned home to his wife in Garnett.
He noticed in the Army that the officers had one thing he didn’t have – a college degree. So he decided to take advantage of the GI Bill, attend the University of Kansas, and get his degree in Mechanical Engineering. He and Kay loved their time in Lawrence and made some lifelong friends there. He loved to tell stories about how all the engineers would walk on campus with their slide rules on their belts. He and Kay also attended many KU basketball games to watch “Wilt the Stilt” Chamberlain play. Richard graduated from KU in 1960. He had KU football tickets (which really spoke to his love of KU, let’s be honest) for decades, and game day is a fond memory for the whole family.
He accepted a job in Dallas, TX, with Texas Instruments upon his graduation. He and Kay bought a little brick house and started their family there; Susan was born while they lived in Dallas. However, they were far from the rest of their families and moved back to Overland Park, and Richard went to work for Bendix for a couple of years.
Richard accepted a job at FMC in Lawrence on the maintenance team, and their son David was born in Lawrence in 1963. However, the unrest in Lawrence in 1968 was concerning to him and Kay, and he accepted a job in the maintenance department with CJ Patterson Company and moved the family back to Overland Park. Richard later became the plant manager of the Grandview Plant until the summer of 1976, when he accepted a position as an operations director for Gulf Explosives. In 1982 he and Kay moved to Waukegan, IL, for a brief stint with Roquette Corporation to build their new plant. In 1983 Richard accepted the position of Vice President of Operations for PBI Gordon Company in Kansas City. From there, he retired in the late 1990s.
Richard was first and foremost about his family. He never missed a school play, award ceremony, concert, soccer game, or dance performance. Education was so important to him, and he passed that on to Susan and David and his granddaughter Keiko. “Studies always come first” was heard frequently in the house. He raised a family of Jayhawks as his kids and granddaughter all graduated from KU. He was proud of every accomplishment they had, whether academic or career-wise. His legacy came full circle when his granddaughter Keiko also graduated from the KU School of Engineering. The love of learning never left him or his family. His passing leaves a hole in our hearts, but that hole is filled with love.
He had a marvelous sense of humor, even though it was sometimes very subtle. Though he was reticent, he made many lifelong friends, and he cherished those friendships dearly. He and Kay loved to travel after his retirement and did so often with friends. They loved the theater and had season tickets to almost every theater company in KC. KU Christmas Vespers was a long-standing tradition with several of their lifelong friends.
Richard is survived by the love of his life, Kay Marie Riley Benjamin; their children, Susan & Riichiro Suzuki and David Benjamin & Terry Jensen; their granddaughter Keiko Suzuki; his brother Don (Lorie) Benjamin, and many nieces and nephews.
He is preceded in death by his father and mother James and Dorotha Benjamin, brothers James, Vernon, John, and his sister Carol.
The family will receive guests for a visitation from 10:30-11:00 am on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, at Penwell Gabel Funeral Home, 14275 S. Black Bob Road, Olathe, KS 66062. The funeral service will follow at 11:00 am. The graveside service will be at Garnett Cemetery on Tuesday, July 13, 2020, at approximately 1:00 pm.
The family requests that contributions in Richard’s memory be made to the Aberdeen Village Employee Scholarship Fund, 17500 W 119th St, Olathe, KS 66061.
To leave a message of condolence for Richard's family or to share a special memory of Richard, please click the “Share Memories” button above.