Benjamin S. Friesen passed away on April 13, 2020. He was born in 1928, in Garden City, Kansas, to Henry and Wilhelmina Friesen. Together with his four siblings (Ruth, Harry, Al, and Walt) the days were filled with Christian faith, hijinks and singing. In the middle of a dust storm, during times of hopelessness, anguish, and boredom, the family sang.
Ben became the first from his family to attend school outside of the German Mennonite community in Meade, Kansas, attending Meade High School. There he excelled in academics, and glee club. He even played on their undefeated football team.
After completing high school, and a year of college, he taught in a one room school house near Meade. (On his 90 th birthday, he could still name every student.)
Ben attended the University of Kansas for undergraduate and Master’s studies, where he became an avid Jayhawk fan. While there, his cousin Nelda introduced Ben to her roommate from nursing school, Joyce. They were married for 67 years.
After being an itinerate graduate student (Iowa State, Cal Tech, and U-Cal Berkeley), he returned to the University of Kansas where he spent his entire working career (1960-2005), driving students crazy by making up viruses on tests and setting very high expectations. As a result, his students nominated him to the Health Physics Society which resulted in him becoming a Fellow (a little like being in the hall of fame). Ben believed the goal of teaching is to capture the student’s imagination.
Ben even taught in his spare time—teaching Sunday School at First Southern Baptist Church, twice creating the largest classes the church has ever seen.
And always there was faith and music.
Along the way, his four children were born —Stanley, Richard, Karen, and Judith, plus one daughter-in-law, Lynn. And later, six grandchildren: Aryn, Ben, Josh, Emily, Chris, and Maggie. During all that time there was music, whether comin’ round the mountain, hearing the bells, or working on the railroad.
Later, Ben and Joyce became world travelers, not just touring Europe, but China, Egypt, Israel, Australia, and Uzbekistan, following a trek his grandmother had made as a girl.
And to the end, whether singing and playing guitar at bedtime for his children and grandchildren, playing in a Mandolin-Guitar Ensemble, singing in the Kansas Mennonite Men’s Chorus, playing classical guitar, or singing old hymns and Carter Family tunes with his brothers, there was always faith and music.
A memorial service will be held at a later date. Please make memorial contributions to the American Red Cross in lieu of flowers.