RIP, Ben R.

He was a funny little man with a cackle of a laugh.  He loved dirty jokes, cheap cigarettes and cheaper beer.  He retired from the Army after 20 years, mostly spent in Korea and Japan.  He married a little Korean lady, and they bought a farm in north Alabama and raised a daughter.  He kept cows, hauling hay in a Honda Civic, of all things.  His pets were a couple of Australian cattle dogs that stayed outside, an indoor yap dog that barked whenever he was on the phone, a Siamese cat that could nearly carry on a conversation, and a fat marmalade cat appropriately named Garfield.  He was a contractor with Boeing, working in the NASA light gas gun facility, where he taught a wet-behind-the-ears co-op student how to handle M1 gun powder and clean up after a shot.

Philip, Bob, Pete, George in the front row, Joe, yours truly, and Ben in back. All four older guys were Army vets, and the cameraman was an Army Air Force vet, too.

When some piece of equipment wasn’t behaving, he said, “I know why it’s not working.”  Of course, I fell for it.  “Why?”  “Because it’s broke!”

We stayed in touch after Boeing laid him off.  He played surrogate grandpa to my kids when we went blueberry picking near his farm.  His wife passed away last year, and the last time I saw him, it seemed like all the years and especially the cigs had caught up to him.  The last time I talked to him, we made plans for me to bring some Kentucky Fried Chicken to the nursing home, and we’d catch up.  I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to do that.

Rest in peace, my friend.

7 thoughts on “RIP, Ben R.”

  1. Life is so precious. Your post, and the wonderful person that Ben was brings that truth back to it’s deserving perspective.

    Thank you for taking the time to tell us about him.

  2. This is, perhaps, a bit off thread, but you pointed out that Boeing laid Ben off.

    I think it is a national disgrace that our politicians just don’t seem to understand that one of our great national resources was a strong aerospace industry and highly skilled workforce. Those workforce skills are quickly disappearing as the space budget is cut, and cut again. Workers either move to other industries, or they retire. Entry level jobs disappear and we will find ourselves at a severe technical disadvantage with the rest of the space faring world.

    I don’t happen to agree with Newt Gingrich’s vision of a space program that is 90% commercial taking us back to the Moon. I think the mission is worth doing, but I can’t see industry as being willing to undertake the financial risk.

    However, I am dumbfounded by the absolute stupidity of of the other challengers who don’t want to “waste money in space.” Where, exactly, do they think NASA’s money is spent? Every single penny is spent right here on Earth, and it funds a technological engine that helps to drive our economy in endless ways. A major part of the problem with NASA leadership which I have alluded to in the past includes their inability to communicate the value of the technological advances which improve our lives every day. Computers, communications, teleoperations, transportation, medical… the list is endless.

    But, somehow, politicians seem to think that NASA wastes their budget by launching bales of 100 dollar bills into orbit.

    The truth is that NASA and DARPA are two of the best investments in the future that we make. They do the cutting edge research and development that generally ends up being spun off into the private sector. That creates jobs, opens new areas for the private sector, and helps to maintain America’s technological leadership in the world.

    1. Boeing laid off Ben in the early 90’s. The aerospace field has had boom/bust cycles for a long time, and when the Space Station meteoroid/debris shielding testing finished, Boeing kept him as an electronics tech for a while, then let him go. Ben was better off than most because he had the farm and his military retirement.

      You are right that NASA’s budget is spent on the ground, but I’ll admit, there’s waste that should be dumped.

  3. Roamy, please accept my deepest sympathy! Those old coots are the best — teachers, mentors, friends. I am so sorry for your loss.

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