Bennett Orville Stenoien

The following is contributed by Muriel Myrbo. Please feel free to contribute any stories yourself as we honor Ben on this memorial site.

Muriel writes on 8/11/99 (additions April 2002 by brother Doug)

When Ben was born, December 7, 1932, I had just had my 10th birthday and because of the depression there had been no money for presents so Mom told me that Ben was my birthday present. That made me feel that I was partly responsible for him. Doug snuck into the bedroom to see Ben, but was shooed away by the midwife.

Ben’s father, Ole, split wood by holding the wood with his left hand, and chopping the wood with his right. Ben, eager to imitate his father, one day attempted the same feat. The axe unfortunately missed the wood, cutting deeply into the flesh at the base of his index finger. It was lucky that he didn’t lose his hand. (Doug).

Bonnie and Noel both remember the day that Ben and his friends decided to light up some gunpowder. For some reason, the gunpowder did not light. Ben had the great idea of sitting next to the pile of gunpowder and lighting a match. Of course, the gunpowder blew up, burning his face. Talk about cat with nine lives.

Ben had a circular scar in the middle of this forehead. Noel was shooting arrows at some antlers. The arrows had a shotgun shell tied to the front, in order add weight. The arrow ricocheted and hit Ben in square the forehead.

Ben was born with a natural talent for music. I remember him sitting in front of the radio, strumming on an old one-string guitar, singing along with the songs that were playing on the radio, while he was still a toddler.

When the family moved to the farm outside of Elizabeth, Minnesota, about 1942, Ben worked for a local German farmer. They were both similarly bull-headed, and seemed to get along as a result.

He was energetic, the life of a party and everybody’s friend. He was generous to a fault and I can’t recall ever hearing him make mean remarks about anyone. To say that he had the usual bumps and bruises that most children experience is an understatement as some of his were very unusual, like playing William Tell with real arrows, experimenting with gun powder and matches and a few other “minor” mishaps! There was one time that Doug was trying to estimate how much kerosene was left in a can. He decided to to light the can, then threw the contents at this brother Ben, who was left with burns to his legs. He was tied up for the summer while he was healing.

When Ben was 17, he enlisted in the Navy. After training in San Diego, he was sent to Korea where he was a telegraph operator on shipboard. He worked below in the ship’s hold in a small, dark room where he was the sole occupant for days at a time, his only communications were the orders and ugly reports of the Korean conflict. This eventually took its toll and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he was sent back to the U.S. While en route home, his brother Douglas, who was in the army in 1951 and 1952, was being sent to Korea. Ben and Doug managed to meet in Japan as, through “the powers that be”, they were allowed to visit after not seeing each other for several years.

The story is as follows. Doug was serving in the army in the 25th lightning division, liaison for the artillery. While in Tokyo in October, 1952, Doug was on leave in Japan. He spent his first day inquiring about Ben’s ship, the Destroyer, Shields. He was told that the ship was off the coast of Korea.

Age 9, Sunday best.

His second day, he was helping an inebriated friend home from a bar, when he heard that the Shield was in port. It had taken a shell and was in for repairs. He and his Chicago buddy wandered down to the shipyard, where they found thousands of sailors milling about. A couple of staggering sailors walked by; Doug’s friend asked about the Squires, and the drunk sailor pointed off into the distance. Doug enquired if he knew Ben. Indeed, the sailors were buddies, and shortly thereafter the brothers ran into each other. They were given a special leave and spent the day together, shopping and visiting. As it turned out, they compared notes and realized that Ben’s destroyer had supplied covering fire for Doug and his troops. (Doug)

After Ben’s stint in the Navy, he reenlisted in the Air Force. He took part of his training at Biloxi, Miss. where he met and married Yvonne Deselle, May 15, 1955. In 1970, they adopted a baby boy, born January 31, 1970 and named him Marcus Benton. He was the apple of their eye until, lo and behold, along came some competition. They became the surprised parents of a baby girl, Danielle Lea, born February 13, 1974. Ben and Yvonne were stationed in Okinawa where the rainy, damp weather wreaked havoc with Yvonne’s rheumatism. She underwent several painful operations which helped temporarily but eventually she became quite crippled. When Ben’s 20 year stint was over, they moved to Glendale, AZ to be near a hospital that specialized in gold treatments which gave Yvonne some relief.

While in the service, Ben received his high school and college diplomas and also received a teaching degree. When they settled in Arizona, he started working for Motorola where he designed many of the new pieces of equipment and worked there until his battle with leukemia got the best of him.

Yvonne had a massive heart attack on July 29, 1988 so Ben became both father and mother to his teenagers. One of his most wonderful gifts was the arrival of his grandson, Jared Bennett, on July 8, 1989. Ben adored this little boy and I know that Jared made Ben’s painful days a lot brighter. After a valiant fight, Ben passed away July 11, 1996. He is sadly missed by all.

A tribute to my birthday present brother – Muriel