April 23, 1916 – Feb. 23, 2014
On Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, two months to the day shy of turning, 98, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Ben Pittman Denman of Lake Jackson, Texas, and formerly of Brownwood, surrounded by his family, peacefully slipped out of this world into the glory of the next one.
Ben was born April 23, 1916, in Brownwood, Texas, to Walter G. Denman and Kate Pittman Denman. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Elizabeth Nell Dyess Denman; his son, Judge Ed Denman and his wife Bettye of Lake Jackson, Texas; daughter, Marajen Denman of Raleigh, N. C.; grandchildren, Elizabeth Denman Williams and husband Michael, Margaret Denman Beck and husband Douglas, and David Edwin Denman and wife Misty Keeter; and five great-grandchildren.
Ben's long and exceptional life began in Brownwood, Texas, the second of four children. At the age of 12 Ben got his first job for ten cents a day to help supplement the family income. He attended Brownwood High School and during his senior year was president of the student body. After graduating from high school during the height of the Great Depression in 1933 he secured a job for fifty cents a day as an office boy for the Walker Smith Grocery Company so he could help the family save enough money to pay for the education of his younger brother and sister. During this time he obtained an accounting certificate by correspondence from the LaSalle School of Accounting and later became an auditor for Walker Smith. Six years later Ben enrolled in the University of Texas in 1939 at the age of 23. In order to pay for his education he got a job as an assistant to the Controller of the University and became a member and the House Manager of Lamba Chi Alpha fraternity, which provided his room and board. At the University of Texas he was a member of the Texas Cowboys and was elected it’s foreman in the spring of 1942. He was also a member of the Friars Society. During the summer of 1940 he met and began dating the love of his life a young junior from Albany, Texas, Elizabeth Nell Dyess.
On Dec. 26, 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Ben drove to Houston with two friends to enlist in the Navy, only to be told to return finish his degree so he would be eligible to enlist in Officer Candidate School. On Sept. 12, 1942, Ben graduated Summa Cum Laude from UT’s Business School after which he entered the Naval officers training school in New York City. On Feb. 17,1943, the same day he was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy, Ben was married to Elizabeth Nell Dyess. For the next year Ben taught at the Naval Recognition School in Columbus, Ohio and in June of 1944, he was assigned to the USS Talladega, an attack transport, where he served as a gunnery officer in the Pacific campaign during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Besides being an eye-witness the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi, on Sept. 2, 1945, Ben witnessed the signing of the surrender papers from the bridge of the USS Talladega while his ship was moored beside the USS Missouri in Toyko Bay. Although Ben’s military career officially ended on that day, he continued to be a military man at heart, supporting and praying daily for God to bless and protect “our men and women in uniform who are in harms way.”
After the war Ben returned to Brownwood where he and two others organized J. R. Beadel and Co, a wholesale grocery business. In 1951, Ben joined Southwestern Life Insurance Company as an agent. While in Brownwood, Ben served as president of the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Community Chest, Brownwood Country Club, and the Knife and Fork Club. He also was a member of the Brownwood School Board, the Brownwood Housing Authority and was an Elder in the First Presbyterian Church. In 1955, Ben was selected to manage and open the new branch office in Tulsa, Okla., that was responsible for the Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri region. In 1961, Southwestern Life acquired the Atlantic Life Insurance Company and Ben and his family moved to Richmond Virginia to oversee the consolidation of the two companies. In 1966 Ben was transferred, to the home office in Dallas, where in 1969 he became Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. He later became President of the company until his retirement in 1981. After that time he continued to serve as a consultant to Hunt Oil and on the boards of several companies, including Advanced Ergonomics, Temple Inland and Carreker and Associates. In 1997 he and his wife moved to Lake Jackson, Texas.
Those who knew him would attest to the fact that Ben dearly loved his Lord, his family, his country and his Texas Longhorns. But to his wife, Nell, his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren "Papa" will be remembered as a truly good and honest man of the highest integrity. He was a supportive father, grandfather and great-grandfather, a true inspiration and model of a life well lived.
Ben will be buried in the family plot at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in Albany, Texas. A memorial service celebrating his life will be held Saturday, March 1, at the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Jackson.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to be made in Ben's memory to the Edwin Dyess Scholarship, Tarleton State University, Box T – 0260, Stephenville, Texas 76401 or to the Denman Family Scholarship at Brazosport College, 500 College Drive, Lake Jackson, Texas 77566.