ANTHONY WILLIAM BENDA
Anthony William Benda, or as we all know and love him, Tony, died on June 6, 2017. He was born to Robert and Mary Lois (Culver) Benda October 3, 1954, in Britton, SD, and was the third child born to this union. When Tony was about one-year-old, the family traveled to Edgemont, SD, where Tony’s dad was employed at the uranium mill. Tony attended elementary school at Edgemont until he was eight years old at which time his mother passed away. The family moved back to Britton to live with his grandparents. Bob met Vi Jandahl and they were married making a family of seven children. The family then eventually relocated to St. James, MN. Tony attended high school at St. James High School, St. James, MN, graduating in 1972. After graduation from high school in 1972, he enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, SD. He was an airplane mechanic, worked on B-52 bombers, completed four years in the military, and was honorably discharged. He was proud to be a veteran and especially promoted the Air Force when any young adult was considering a military career. After his discharge, he attended Western Dakota Technical Institute and received a technical degree in carpentry. He was employed by Crown Construction and was a rough-in carpenter. While working for Crown Construction in Edgemont, Tony’s elementary school teachers encouraged him to meet the school’s business manager. Lucky for him the business manager went into the lunch room to visit with the cooks. Low and behold he met the love of his life, Theresa Didier. Theresa eventually left the Edgemont School District for more education. Tony was on a mission to make her his bride so he followed her, eventually traveling to White River. Tony was employed as Theresa’s dad’s (John) hired man. It was a blessing in disguise that Tony was there when John had a stroke while chasing a sick calf in January, 1983 and Carole (Theresa’s mom) was also diagnosed in April with cancer. Tony cared for John’s personal needs as did the Didier siblings to keep the family unit together. Tony and Theresa were married November 26, 1983, in White River. Tony continued to work on the ranch and help with John until his death in 1991 and Carole’s death in 1995. Tony and Theresa then began their own ranching operation. Theresa still worked at the school and Tony temporarily worked at the White River school as a custodian. Eventually he was employed as rural mail carrier, and parttime NRSC field technician. To this union a wonderful daughter, Carole, was born May 26, 1996. If you ever heard the stories, the birth of Carole was a miracle. Carole was a precious jewel to Tony. Many just called her “Little Tony” because she totally is his replica. With the change in the mail service, Tony traveled for work and was then employed as a bus driver/custodian for the Jones County School District from 2007 to October 2015. In October he was diagnosed with stage three esophageal cancer. Tony loved being around the students at Jones County. Tony spread his joy and love around the school and community and touched many lives. Whether it was scaring students/teachers or other employees in the hallway, causing a riot in the lunch room singing happy birthday, or giving candy and/or pop to the students, his zest for life was limitless. It was not uncommon for him to visit with someone and ask how they were doing or giving a student a piece of advice. Resigning from that position was almost his demise before the cancer. Tony was an active member of the American Legion, Otterman Post #94 of White River. He took much pride in the Commander position he held for several years. He was also a member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and served as President of the Board. He also facilitated the dance during Frontier Days. Tony continually kept the admission line backed up because he had to visit with everyone, those he hadn’t seen for many years, and those he just had seen 15 minutes before. His cancer journey began with chemo therapy and radiation in Rapid City in November 2015 and then an esophagectomy at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, MN, in February 2016. He was on a feeding tube from that point until his death. In January 2017 he was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer. Throughout this journey, yes the cancer was killing him, but it was the most difficult for him that he couldn’t be out and about spreading his unlimited joy, being a blessing, or being a cheerleader to others. Tony’s Troops kept him going from month-to-month as well as kindness and gestures shown by friends, family, and acquaintances. Tony is survived by his wife Theresa; daughter Carole (Michael) Knecht; sisters Bev (Dave) Gehman, Rapid City, SD, and Debbie (David) Ludwig, Dundas, MN; stepsisters Sherry Kilker, Britton, Kathy (Alex) Aguilar, Corona, CA, and Lana (Larry) Lynn, Salinas, CA; sisters-in-law Helen “Boots” (Jerry) Schwarting, White River, SD, and Glenda (Jerry) Manke, White River, SD. Tony was preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Mary Lois Benda; step-mother, Vi Benda; brother, Larry; sister, Elizabeth; and grandparents Lou and Grace Benda and Len and Laura Culver; and several sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncle, and cousins. A celebration of life was held at the ranch June 9, 2017, at 6:00 p.m. Services were held at the White River Community Events Center, White River at 11:30 a.m. Interment followed at the White River Cemetery. Sandoz Chapel of the Pines in Valentine, NE, was entrusted with service arrangements.