Earl Leroy Benne was born January 2, 1917 to William and Katie Benne. He passed away peacefully on August 12, 2016, in his home. He was one of 12 children who grew up on a farm in NW Oklahoma City which allowed his family to survive the depression. He attended a Carson School, a one room schoolhouse and graduated from the 8th grade from Chisholm School. As was then common, he went to work for farmers in the area.
When he was 18, he began work in the oil fields for contractors. Two years later he started working for Conoco with a team of horses. In February, 1942, Earl married Lenore Brown in Sayre, OK as they made their way to California. There he worked on the B24 bombers. He was drafted that year by the Army and reported for duty on October 5, 1942, at Camp Gruber in Muskogee, Okla. where he was assigned to F Company, 351st Infantry, 88th Division. After training in Oklahoma and Texas, he landed in Oran, North Africa in Dec. 1943. Earl's Company moved to the front lines in Italy in late February, 1944 where he participated in several missions. On May 11, 1944, the big push started to retake Italy. His Company started out with 246 soldiers. On May 12, 1944, he was captured by the Germans. He was among the 34 men who had survived. His time as a POW was difficult and he endured much. Earl lived as a POW until April 22, 1945, when his camp was liberated by the Russians. The Americans arrived May 6, 1945. He was honorably discharged in Nov. 1945. His service to the USA is greatly appreciated by his entire family.
After his return, he and Lenore adopted a son, Robert Eugene. Earl described this as one of the happiest days of his life. Earl was very proud of his son. He was a dedicated father and husband.
Earl returned work at Conoco Oil Company until his retirement. He was a loyal employee who always did the very best job he could do. He took great pride in how he did his job which was recognized and appreciated by his fellow employees.
Lenore died in 1976 after a three year illness. Throughout this very difficult time, Earl continued to be dedicated to his work. In 1985, he married Adelina Tonguette who preceded him in death by just over two weeks.
When Earl retired from Conoco, he started his "second career." He loved horses. He was proud of the many first place ribbons he won at the Oklahoma State Fair. He drove a covered wagon to advertise for Cattlemen's Steak House (his favorite). He was a regular in Edmond 4th of July parades. His favorite passenger in the surrey was Mrs. Brooks, Garth Brooks mother, whom he described as a really nice woman. He worked parades in Guthrie, and many other cities. He pulled a trolley car for special events at the Cowboy Hall of Fame with his air conditioned tractor to be more comfortable. He had a surrey made for himself, white and red with the fringe on top! Many family members and newlyweds enjoyed riding it.
Earl was friendly to everyone who worked the events or who rode on his wagons. At the age of 90 he decided it was time to retire. Earl will be remembered for being a good son, husband, father, grandfather and brother. His generosity and caring nature affected many family members and many others.
Earl was preceded in death by his parents, his first wife Lenore, his wife Adelina, three brothers, William, Lewis and Delbert, and five sisters, Helen (Moore), Ruth (Paine), Shirley (Spencer), Frances (Dillard) and Betty (Provence).
He is survived by his son, Bob Benne and his wife Pam, grandchildren, Ara Hickey (David); Kate Pogue (Korby) and Drew; and seven great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Carl (Mary Lou) Benne, sisters, Mary Anne Lane, and Oneta McDaniel, Adelina's daughter, Zaida Shilling, numerous nieces and nephews and many god-children.
The family wishes to thank Phyllis, Paula, Mikke, Tyler, and Sonya for their care at home and Amber and Minister Gene Owens and the volunteers of Companion Hospice. Special thanks to family members who were so caring of Earl, Carl Benne, Oneta McDaniel and Kimberly Benne-Gray, without their assistance Earl's wish to stay in his home would not have been possible and to Maria in Earl's own words, "I couldn't have asked for a better friend."
Earl will be greatly missed by his family and all who knew and loved him. We will always carry your memory in our hearts.
Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. Friday, August 19, at Matthews Funeral Home. Services will be 10 a.m. Saturday, August 20, at Matthews Funeral Home, 601 S. Kelly Ave. Edmond. Burial will follow at Gracelawn Cemetery, Edmond.
Published on August 16, 2016