Benny James “Ben” Wattelet, 79, of Shawnee Mission, KS died at 5:55 pm Saturday, September 12, at Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Merriam, KS following a long and brave battle against Alzheimer’s disease. He was born May 27, 1936 in Stonington, IL, the eldest son of Benny and Velma Campbell Wattelet.
Throughout his life, Ben always thought of those less fortunate. He supported numerous charities, including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The Alzheimer’s Association, The Salvation Army and The Mayo Clinic, following their care of his beloved wife, Dorothy. He loved fishing with his father, meals with his mother, evenings with his wife, driving around and talking with his son, and “closing a restaurant down” with his daughters. A lifelong supporter of the arts, Ben played the clarinet as a teen and enjoyed classical music his whole life. He always ensured his family was exposed to theatrical and musical performances.
An inspiring example of hard work, from newspaper boy to dishwasher at The Blue Mill to beloved member of the Taylor Pharmaceuticals leadership team, he never forgot the value of spending time with and caring for family. On August 27, 1971 he married the love of his life, Dorothy Burnett, in Decatur, IL. Together, they were members of the People’s Church of God in Decatur, IL; Clark’s River Baptist Church in Symsonia, KY; and Joy Assembly Church in Stonington, IL.
Ben was a proud alumnus of Millikin University and avid follower of the stock market. His favorite movie was “A Christmas Story,” not only because of his childhood similarities to “Ralphie,” but because he also went on to see himself in “The Old Man.” He had a laugh and smile that people remembered, even in his final days. His genuine, lovable spirit was infectious, even to “granddog” Leo, who would shake with excitement whenever he saw him.
We were blessed to learn many memorable lessons from Ben during his 79 years, including: Step lively. Don’t let anyone know you love animals (but secretly shower them with affection when no one is looking). Give to every charity that asks. Don’t quit a job until you already have another one. When playing restaurant with your kids, skip the plastic peas and order a Manhattan. Be adventurous with food but never eat at a buffet. Stay up for Carson. Dress to impress. Save everything, and file it well. And take on life’s challenges with grace and dignity.
Ben’s spirit is carried on by his brother David Wattelet of Clinton, MO; son Kris Wattelet and wife Kathleen of Minneapolis, MN; daughters Maureen Wattelet of San Diego, CA and Andrea Weinfurt of Kansas City, MO; and sister-in-law Eloise (Charles) Crowell. He is also survived by three granddaughters: Jessica (Justin) Evans, Jolene Wattelet and Gabrielle (Jesse) Snyder, and two great-grandchildren: Toby and Savannah Evans. His parents, youngest brother Ronald, and wife Dorothy preceded him in death.