Obituary for Benancio "Ben" Alaniz
Obituary for Benancio Alaniz
After a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, Benanacio Alaniz, 87, of Coldwater passed away Friday, September 13, 2013 at Maple Lawn in Coldwater with his loving family near.
Ben was born May 18, 1926, in Edinburg, Texas to Alberto and Julia (Garza) Alaniz. When he was four-years-old, the family moved to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico where Ben grew up on his father’s ranch on the banks of the Rio Grande River. He graduated from the Academie Cepeda in Reynosa and attended Escadon College there. Later he studied business at the University of Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
When he was a teenager, Ben began going to the Charlevoix, Michigan area with his uncle where he worked in the fruit crops there. One year when his uncle was ready to return to Mexico, Ben told him he was staying in Michigan because, even though he could not speak English well, he felt there were more opportunities for him here. Knowing no one, he hitchhiked to Lansing and began working for Fisher Body. Eventually, he was laid off there, but on his last day of work, Howard Sober from Auto Transport came to the plant looking for someone to drive a truck to Bronson, Michigan. Ben volunteered, and upon arriving at Bronson, took a room at the local hotel and then went and applied for work at three different factories. He had no more returned to his room than a representative from Douglas Manufacturing knocked at his door offering him a job. The job involved working with numbered parts. Always adept at mathematics and working with numbers, he simply memorized the numbers on the parts and became a valued employee, despite the fact that he could not speak English fluently.
In 1952 he joined the U.S. Army and spent a tour of duty in Europe as a Corporal with the 885th Engineer Aviation Maintenance Company. Upon returning to the United States, he drove a car hauler for Howard Sober. He hauled cars cross-country for over 10 years. He was a proud member of the Teamsters Union during this time and had the opportunity to meet Jimmy Hoffa and shake his hand when the union president came to visit the drivers.
Eventually he went to work as a salesman for Hydrotex Corporation. He knew every back road in the counties of Southern Michigan from calling on farmers while working with Hydrotex . He continually worked to improve his spoken English because his dream was to own his own business. He fulfilled this dream when he bought the Night and Day Laundromat on S. Hanchett Street, Coldwater and in 1968, he established Alaniz Water Conditioning in Coldwater, eventually becoming the oldest continuous RainSoft dealership in the nation. He ran the business until his retirement in 2008.
Ben was an active member of the American Legion and participated for many years in its drill team, traveling to many competitions throughout the state. Very competitive and blessed with innate athletic ability, he was an excellent golfer, bowler, and pool player. He was a member of the Coldwater Country Club for 50 years, and for a period of time was a scratch golfer winning, at some time, every major golf tournament there, including the Club Championship, President’s Cup and Invitational. He relished the pressure of the game and liked nothing better than coming from behind to win. His golf career also included three holes in one. He went to many major golf tournaments throughout his life and attended the Master’s Tournament in Augusta, Georgia several times where he became friends with Lee Trevino and walked the practice rounds with him. In 1998, he and his friends traveled to Scotland where he was able to fulfill a lifetime dream of playing St. Andrews course there. He was also a member of the Battle Creek Senior Golf Association and, for several years he took the award for low gross. He was also a long time member of the Coldwater BPOE.
Although his accomplishments were many, his family remembers Ben most as a loving, gentle soul with a quick smile and wit and a contagious laugh. His golfing partners even nicknamed him “Gentle Ben”. He loved reading the USA Today newspaper, GMC vehicles, stopping at small town diners for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie, a card game of Gin Rummy, butter pecan ice cream, dancing, the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. Looking his best was always important; he never owned a pair of jeans and was known to go on service calls in a shirt and tie. He never got lost when traveling and he could travel the country without referring to an atlas from his travels while hauling cars. He loved a good dog and was blessed with many in his life including two hunting dogs, Duke I, an English Pointer; Duke II, a German shorthair; Bruno his Labrador, and in later years, Snow and Mischa, his Siberian Huskies.
He always had time for his family and friends and was happiest when they surrounded him. He was a wonderful listener and always knew just what to say to help ease your burden; he was always a great encourager. His advice on all issues was spot on. He had an exacting ability to read people and situations. He knew what it was to suffer from homesickness, as he had struggled with it when he left his home and family in Mexico, so he instinctively knew when others were suffering from it and tried to ease it in them. He was known to show up at a college dorm to take his children out to dinner, or call just to make sure they were o.k. when they were missing home. He opened his home to many who had met up with unfortunate circumstances, but he never talked about it and only his family knew. He loved unconditionally and saw the beauty in others and in nature. Particularly, he loved the woods and hunting. He was a planter and nurturer of trees, taking great pride in the many beautiful trees he planted at his home and farm.
Ben’s first marriage was to Mary Lou Keller of Bronson in May, 1952. His second marriage was to Mary Mathews Baggerly on Dec. 20, 1974, and she survives.
His children who will love and miss him are David Alaniz of Coldwater, Jennifer (Matthew) Milligan of Quincy, and Linda (Ian) Hornsby of Biot, France. His two grandsons, who called him Papa Benjie, are Liam and Jean Luc Hornsby of Biot, France. Also surviving are sisters Margaret Salas and Eulala Pena of McAllen, Texas and Socorro Alaniz and Maria Alaniz of Reynosa, Mexico, as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins. Two sisters and three brothers preceded him in death.
Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, September 18th at 11:00a.m. at Dutcher Funeral Home in Coldwater with Rev. Fr. Michael Howell officiating. Interment will follow at Sherwood Cemetery in Sherwood Township. The family will receive family and friends on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. and 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the funeral home. Donations in Ben’s memory may be made to the Maple Lawn activity fund, the Burnside Senior Center, or the Branch County Humane Society. www.dutcherfh.com