A gentleman has joined the moon and stars.
Handsome, hilarious, deeply humane, and brilliant, Ben Killingsworth passed away in his Idyllwild Home on June 7 with his wife Nanci and his beloved animals at his side.
Ben was born June 25, 1929 in San Diego to Benjamin and Lois Killingsworth. Job and housing shortages found the little family, now including sister Kay and brother Ronnie, hopscotching across California to join grandparents in Oregon. Theirs was a tiny farm perched on the edge of the Smith River where transportation into town was a rowboat. At night, kerosene lamps were lit and the bathing trough was heated by the woodstove. Hunting wild game was a necessity and little “Bennie” tagged along for the adventures with the menfolk.
Facing a wartime housing shortage in Indio, where Ben’s dad was now an officer with the CHP, the family joined an aunt and uncle on their hog farm in Perris. Ben and his siblings attended a one-room schoolhouse. Once they settled in Indio, Ben thrived in wide-open country life, tending to an assortment of dogs, homing pigeons and chickens.
During Ben’s teen years, the family resided in Riverside and his grandpa built a cabin on Pinecrest in Idyllwild. Visits up the mountain were in his “hopped-up” hot rod navigating the early perilous roads with some very frightened family members.
Ben served in the US Navy from 1948 until 1952. He was assigned to the USS Essex as a combat air crewman during the Korean conflict. During an early mission headed to North Korea, the plane malfunctioned and Ben and the crew had to eject into the Sea of Japan.
Ben followed his father’s career path and entered the CHP Academy in 1954. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the Compton area as a state traffic officer and then transferred to the Riverside area. He subsequently served in San Bernardino, CHP headquarters, San Diego and Fresno in various ranks and assignments. In January 1978, he was appointed Border Division Chief where he served for 10 years prior to his retirement in December 1988.
In 2002, Ben and Nanci moved to Idyllwild and both became very active in the community. Ben was a founding member of Idyllwild Community Recreation Council, president of the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce, vice president of Mountain Disaster Preparedness, newsletter editor for Idyllwild Area Historical Society, Rotary bulletin editor, Idyllwild Fire Protection District fire commissioner and treasurer of the Help Center board.
The Town Crier offered Ben the chance to write a weekly column and he jumped at the chance to share his keen observations of small town life, and in general, how we all manage to make our way in the world. The collection of those columns resulted in his 2011 book “Waiting for My Wife.”
With the dogs in tow, Ben & Nanci traveled extensively in Audrey the Trailer surviving blown tires, too many wrong turns, ripped off roof vents and crashes into fences and trees which all added to their joy of the open road.
Ben was a treasure of a man with boundless humor, wry wisdom and unsurpassed compassion. He will be missed forever.
His survivors include his wife Nanci, his son Craig and daughter-in-law Kelly, sister and brother-in-law Kay and Jerry Clemons, brother-in-law David McElfresh and wife Tina, sister-in-law Jeanne Chrisholm and brother-in-law Steve McElfresh, and their precious sons, nephew Michael and Ben’s much loved animals and countless friends. His brother Ron, daughter Julie and nephew Mark predeceased Ben.
A private gathering for friends and family was held at Ben and Nanci’s home on June 25 to celebrate what would have been his 90th birthday.