By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Duane “Beno” Benoit was many things to many different people, including a loving husband, father, and grandpa.
Known as a big teddy bear and a gentle giant by those who knew him, Beno (his nickname given by his high school basketball teammates) was a kind-hearted man who will be remembered for many things.
“I will remember his smile,” said Wes Edwards of Darwin, who was a part of the Knights of Columbus with Beno through St. John’s Catholic Church.
Beno and wife, Char, were blessed with four children, Tim Benoit, Mary Levinski, Susan Steuck, and Shelly Mendiola. They also have 12 grandchildren.
Dave Backes of Dassel also attended church with Beno and was a part of the Knights of Columbus.
Backes also shared in Monday morning coffee with Beno and a group of men from the Dassel senior apartments, nursing home, and community.
“He will be very sorely missed,” Backes said.
“[Beno] was a good, all-around person,” Backes said, noting his dear friendship.
Backes also remembers helping out Beno and Tim during auctions.
“We always had a good time and he seemed to know everybody,” Backes said.
He also remembers Beno’s passion for politics and how he would tease Beno for getting so worked up over the politicians.
“I told him ‘You’ve been watching FOX News too much,’” Backes said.
Having 12 grandchildren, Beno also was a fun-loving grandfather.
“He knew how to be a good grandpa,” Backes said.
Daughter Shelly can attest to this as she is the mother of six.
Even before Shelly had kids of her own and was living away from home, she would call home on Sundays to talk to her dad.
“He always talked about something the grandkids did,” she said.
Just recently, Shelly’s oldest son John, 7, made a time capsule for school made up of letters from family members that would then be opened at graduation.
Beno was able to write one of those letters which was very emotional for him, since he knew he would not likely be around for that.
He also found something in common with each one of his grandkids and there wasn’t a birthday or get-together he missed.
“He just loved being with family,” Shelly said.
Throughout Beno’s life, he has worn many hats including a farmer, truck driver, construction worker, bus driver, study hall supervisor, National Guardsman, sheriff’s deputy, police chief, and the most recent, an auctioneer.
Beno grew up on the family farm in St. Augusta, graduated from Kimball High School in 1949, and married Char in 1961.
They lived on the farm in rural St. Augusta until 1982, when they moved to Dassel due to his employment with the City of Dassel as chief of police. He has prior law enforcement experience in Stearns County.
Mark Shoutz of Dassel worked part-time during Beno’s employment (he retired in 1994) and remembers him being so friendly and cordial with everyone.
“[Beno] never passed people by. He always had time to say ‘hi’,” Shoutz said.
He also remembered when situations got bad, Beno was always on top of it.
“He always had a good outlook no matter what the situation was,” Shoutz said, who added that Beno was also a good mentor.
The kids also looked up to him, and they especially liked when Beno would give out crime prevention cards with famous ball players.
One little boy even called 911 asking for Beno, said Tim’s wife Sandra.
“He just had his way with children,” she added.
Though no longer a farmer, Beno was able to use his knowledge and expertise from it as an auctioneer.
He began auctioneering in 1971 after a neighbor suggested he give it a try, according to son, Tim Benoit.
After he kicked the idea around, Beno went to auction school in Mason City, Iowa.
“He liked how every auction was different,” Tim said, who has worked alongside his father with the family business, Benoit Auction Service, since 1979.
“He felt that everything had value,” Tim said, adding that it was also another way of helping others.
In 2002, Beno was inducted into the Minnesota Auctioneers Hall of Fame and attended a banquet in Fergus Falls.
When he realized he was nominated by his son, Tim, and wife, Char, Beno began crying at the table.
“He wasn’t scared to show emotions,” Tim said.
As a hobby, Beno enjoyed restoring old tractors and building miniature toys.
“Everything was Ford,” said Sandra Benoit.
Beno was a former Pantowner, an antique car club out of St. Cloud.
His first restoration project was a 1927 Model T Ford. He also restored four tractors including a '52 Ford 8-N that is still within the family.
Beno died peacefully at his home June 4.
“We’re going to sorely miss him,” said son, Tim.
Though nothing has been confirmed, the family suspects Beno’s heart may have been a contributing factor to his death since four years earlier, he suffered a heart attack.
His family is happy that Beno was able to help others by being a donor.