Dennis Ward Benjamin was born on March 6, 1943, to Augusta (nee Fuerbringer) & George Benjamin and entered into eternal life on Saturday, April 15, 2023, at Crossroads Care Center in Mayville, WI.
One of two boys, the younger brother of Clyde Benjamin, Dennis was baptized into faith on March 21, 1943, at Mount Hope Lutheran church in West Allis, WI, where he was confirmed as well on October 6, 1957. Dennis learned to play the trumpet and during his middle school years began volunteering to play Taps for veterans’ funerals. As a high school student, his playing progressed, and he played in the band as well as the orchestra. Dennis graduated from West Allis Central High School on June 8, 1961. He then attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a trumpet performance major, studying under Dr. J. Robert Hanson, a true mentor who instilled the joy of music as a life-long activity. During his collegiate years, Dennis made several life-long friends.
While attending UW-M, Dennis met fellow music student Barbara Ellen Stolz who later became his accompanist. After some time, Dennis began dating Barbara, a gifted singer as well as pianist, who was the eldest daughter of the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran church located at 2812 W. Wisconsin Av. in Milwaukee. Dennis offered to play trumpet for her church where, after gaining her pastor father’s approval, Dennis and Barb were married on Sunday, July 17, 1966. As trumpet soloist at their wedding, his professor Dr. J. Robert Hanson played “Concerto for Trumpet” by G. Torelli for the prelude and the “Trumpet Voluntary” for the recessional.
Married for 56 ½ years, Dennis was preceded in death by Barbara, who also died at Crossroads Care Center in Mayville, WI, on January 7, 2023. They are survived by their two daughters, Carrie (Robert) Anderson of Horicon, WI, and Lara Benjamin of Greenfield, WI. The couple also leave behind six grandchildren: Damien, Brendon, Ashley, Noah, Jonah, Nora, and one great-granddaughter, Emelyn. Dennis is also survived by two nieces, Karen Thompson and Bonnie Hendrix. Also preceding him in death were Dennis’s mother, father, brother, sister-in-law Gwenn Benjamin, and his niece Sherry Peters (of whom he was immensely proud admiring her “perfect pitch.”)
On December 4, 1967, Dennis was sworn in as a City of Milwaukee Police Officer. Throughout his years of service, Dennis was a member of the Milwaukee Police Band. He became director of the band in 1978 remaining its director until 1999. Under his supervision, the band flourished and had many accomplishments including appearances from guest conductors from all over the country, a partnership with the Marquette University Band under the leadership of Dr. Nicholas Contorno, joint performances with the Minneapolis Police Band, award programs for outstanding Milwaukee high school students, and scholarships in co-operations with the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Youth Foundation. During his tenure, the band celebrated its centennial year in 1998. To honor this milestone, the band traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the annual Fourth of July Parade. His daughter Carrie, who was also a sworn police officer and fellow band member, holds fond memories of attending that Fourth of July ceremony with her father, listening to the symphony play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with cannon guns resounding, and watching the fireworks soar over the Washington Monument. The annual police band concert held at the Pabst Theater recognized the 100th year anniversary celebration as well. Kenneth R. Force, director of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, was a guest conductor and members from the Minneapolis Police band joined in playing along with the Milwaukee Police Band. A bagpipe and drum corps from the Chicago Police Department, dressed in their traditional Tartan kilts, rang out a heartfelt rendition of Danny Boy along with other Irish favorites all while a state-of-the art laser show shined brightly above. Members of that police department and the police band remained a close “Blue” family throughout the years.
Dennis had many other hobbies and interests. He loved antiques, guns, swords, and clocks. He attended and displayed weapons at gun shows across the U.S. and held numerous awards. One such award was received in 1974 when he won Best Edged Weapon Display at the annual Gun Report National Show. In 1981, he also took first place at the Association of American Sword Collectors. A love of the water as well, Dennis always had a boat. For a number of years in the 1980s, the family joined in boating excursions to La Crosse enjoying boating and waterskiing on the Mississippi River with other cop families. He also enjoyed boat rides on Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Port Washington as well as in Door County. As a family, they often got together with brother-in-law Jim and his family for fun boating journeys on either Lake Michigan or on Lake Winnebago. It was on Lake Winnebago that Dennis would end up having a seasonal slip where the “High C,” his last boat, would dock. In addition to his love of boating, Dennis loved dogs, RV camping, and traveling and socializing with their many friends.
Throughout his life, Dennis was involved in community and church life, giving freely of his time and talents. He continued to help out the American Legion by playing for countless funerals until his Alzheimer’s disease prevented him from remembering time, dates, and eventually even trumpet playing. Even during his time at Crossroads Care Center, he would play Taps for the Memorial Day ceremonies. For decades throughout his adulthood, Dennis taught private music lessons for brass and woodwind instruments. Even while in the nursing home, a nurse asked permission to bring her daughter to see Dennis for cornet lessons. Such a blessing this was for both the student and the resident! Other groups in which Dennis had once been involved include Phi Beta M.U.-International School Bandmaster Fraternity, Wisconsin Bandmaster’s Association (Executive Board), former director of the Tripoli Shriners Band, the Fond du lac Symphonic Band, and for more than twenty years the Concord Chamber Orchestra.
When Dennis retired from the Milwaukee Police Department in 1999, he and Barbara moved into the home that they built on land they had purchased in Dodge County, WI. After just a year of retirement, Dennis rejoined the work force at EVS car dealership in Mayville where he continued working until the auto industry was forced to close numerous locations in 2009.
A joint celebration-of-life service for Barbara and Dennis Benjamin will be held on Saturday, April 29, in Mayville, WI, at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 16 South Walnut Street, with visitation starting at 10:00AM and the funeral service at 11:00. Inurnment to follow service at St. Paul Cemetery in Mayville.
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