Benny Dean Thompson, 86, Austin

Published 10:27 am Friday, July 6, 2012

Benny Dean Thompson, 86, a beloved father, grandfather and brother, passed away July 3, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah, from complications while recovering from a recent surgery.

Benny Dean Thompson

Benny was born in Austin, Minn., on June 4, 1926, to Melvin Edward Thompson and Alice Mae Albright Thompson. There were already a brother and sister in the family and he would be followed by five more brothers and four sisters. Benny spent a lot of time outside while he grew up, chopping wood with his dad and exploring local wooded areas and creeks and streams. He developed a love of swimming and spent time during his teenage years as a life guard at East Side Lake. Benny also developed his boxing skills as a member of the Golden Gloves.

Benny was only 14 when World War II broke out, and because he had a strong sense of patriotism, he looked for the first opportunity to enlist, which he did in 1944, in the Navy. He trained as a radio operator in Madison, Wis., and was soon off to serve in the Pacific. However, prior to finishing his training and during a leave, he married his beautiful sweetheart Shirley Ruth Stowell on June 11, 1944.

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Benny served in several areas during the war including Alaska, Okinawa, Japan and Taiwan. As he served, he developed a great respect for people from all cultures and backgrounds. His love of country deepened as did his belief that there are innocents on each side of any conflict. He was serving on a troop transport off the coast of Japan when the war in the Pacific ended.

After his military service, Benny returned to Austin to his wife and oldest son, Benny Jr. During the coming years, the family would grow to include four sons and four daughters. He worked for the Hormel Meat Packing Company for more than 40 years, starting as a messenger boy and working his way up to be an electrician. He continued to work full-time and took advantage of Hormel’s apprenticeship program. He eventually earned his electrical contractor’s license and opened his own business, Green Bus Electric.

Benny was renowned for doing handstand races with his brothers. His children loved to watch him do a handstand and walk around the yard. He loved to take the family swimming to Beaver and St. Olaf lakes. There were many picnics at Todd and Lafayette parks, and trips to the Mower County Fair which was just down Eighth Avenue from the family home. After most of the children left home, Benny and Shirley moved to an acreage west of Austin with the youngest two children of the family. Benny loved raising golden labs and lots of chickens. But as much as he enjoyed being out in the country, Shirley was delighted when they moved back into Austin. Many people in Austin may remember the purple house that was next to Interstate 90 just west of Hormel’s; it was their home for 15 years before Shirley passed away.

Benny and Shirley were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1952. They were always active participants in their church where Benny served in several positions of lay ministry during his life. The family was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1961. Benny would eventually give volunteer service in the Minnesota Temple and in the Jordan River Temple in Utah.

Benny enjoyed learning and avidly studied everything in which he was interested. He studied several different languages (learning to read and speak Hebrew fluently), wrote superbly and, according to several of his children, knew just about everything. He also was a beekeeper for several years and loved the meticulous work of building beehives.

A highlight of Benny’s final years was a family reunion in Cedar City, Utah, for his 80th birthday in 2006. Over 100 of his descendants spent several days together picnicking, sight-seeing in Zion’s National Park, celebrating the Fourth of July, and having a family talent show. In all, Benny’s descendants include eight children, 40 grandchildren, and 80 great-grandchildren.

Benny was preceded in death by his wife Shirley in 1998; his parents; four brothers, Tommy, Lowell, Dick and Dave; two sisters, Theo and Sandy; and his oldest son, Benny Jr. He is survived by seven children, Gary (Mary) of Tempe, Ariz., Sherry (Blane) Christensen of West Valley City, Utah, Dawn Rooks of Layton, Utah, Melody (Kay) Clegg of Idaho Falls, Idaho, Braun of Tucson, Arizona, David (Sue) of Eagle, Idaho, and Faith (Doug) Snater of Austin; two brothers, Ronald (Lorene) of Rochester, Minn. and Daniel (Carol) Thompson of Fairfax, Minn.; three sisters, Wanda (Bud) Overby of Austin, Nancy (Vern) Tripp and Judith Moon of Layton, Utah; and a daughter-in-law (Benny Jr.’s wife), Sheri Thompson of New Ulm, Minn.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 10, 2012, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 404 31st St. NW, Austin with Brother Keith Blake officiating. Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday at Mayer Funeral Home and also one hour before the service at the church on Tuesday. Interment will be in Oakwood Cemetery with military rites by American Legion Post No. 91 and V.F.W. Post No. 1216.