Eugene "Gene" BenbenDecember 17, 1934 ~ October 11, 2017 (age 82)
On October 11, 2017, Gene Benben, 82, slipped the bonds of earth one last time, from the care and comfort of the Holyoke Soldiers Home after a short illness. Born in Chicopee on December 17, 1934, he was the son of Jacob and Anna (Budzn) Benben. Gene attended St. Stanislaus School and was a graduate of Cathedral High. He then attended the University of Rhode Island, graduating with a degree in Chemistry. After his first semester at URI, he had accumulated so many demerits that he was told by Dean Quinn, “Mr. Benben, you will never graduate from this University”. Three and a half years later, Dean Quinn handed Gene his diploma. He then joined the United States Army for 2 years and served in the Chemical Corp during the Korean War Era. Gene had a passion for flying and he received his pilots license at a young age under the guidance of his instructor, Roger Atwood. On his first solo flight, as he came in for a landing at Atwood Airport in Northampton, Gene carved out the tops of several trees but landed safely. Damage was minimal, and from that day on Gene had a safer landing for every take off. He and Roger remained good friends up until Roger’s death a few years ago. An avid golfer, Gene accumulated nine holes-in-one over the years and in May of 2000, had two aces in the same week. For several years Gene worked at Technifax in Holyoke as a Chemist. It was at this time that he decided to pursue his love of aviation. He moved to Pennsylvania where for many years ran the Pocono Valley Airport. It was here that he met the likes of Paul Newman, Pat Boone and Jerry Garcia and his band mates. Gene was also a flight instructor and mentored many aviation students, including his son David. From the Pocono’s, he returned to Massachusetts and started flying for Provincetown-Boston Airlines, where he captained his beloved DC-3. Whether parked at Logan or LaGuardia, other pilots would always ask to sit at the controls of his vintage aircraft. Gene then headed to Bradley Airport where he worked as a flight safety inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration, retiring in 1997. Gene was a member of the American Legion Post 325 of Holyoke, a member of The Quiet Birdmen and Wyckoff Country Club. Gene is survived by his son, David and his wife Terri, his daughters, Mary, Cathleen and Carol and her husband Gary, his grandson Michael and his nephew Joey. Gene is also survived by his caretaker and companion of many years, Marie Reynolds. Besides his parents, he was also predeceased by sisters Anna and Eleanor and brother Donald. Marie and Carol would like to thank the staff of 4-West of the Soldiers Home for the wonderful care he received there during the last four months, and prior to that, the staff of Renaissance on Cabot Street. Per his request, there will be no calling hours/services. Donations in Gene’s memory may be made to the Holyoke Soldiers Home.