Benjamin Lewis Bickler
May 19, 1930 – Sept. 20, 2018
Benjamin Lewis Bickler, 88, passed away on September 20, 2018, in Keenesburg, Colorado. He was born on May 19, 1930, in Orrin, North Dakota, to Wendelin and
Anna Bickler, and was the oldest of 8 children. Benjamin was preceded in death by his parents, his sisters Florence and Maryanne, and his brother Joe. He is survived by his son Samuel, his estranged daughter Anna Thornton of Colorado, his sister Dorothy Gamble of Rochester, Minnesota, brothers George (Jeanette) and Christian of Denver, Colorado, and his sister Mildred Bohl of Great Falls, Montana, as well as grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
The following eulogy was written by his niece:
“He was many things in his life, and he wore many hats; he was a farmer, a sailor, a student, an electrician, and a self-taught computer nerd. He was a son, a
brother, a husband, a father, an uncle, and a friend. For me, he fell into more than one of those categories, and I would be hard pressed to pick just one adjective to
describe him. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known and generous to a fault.
My mother has told me stories about Benj when they were growing up on the farm and how much he loved animals. I have a picture of Benj with two horses that are immense. He is wearing a pair of overalls and obviously ready for work. There is something in his stance that seems to say he is right where he belongs. Another picture shows his Dad lining up the kids for a photo, and Benj is holding a cat and wearing a smile.
I heard that he had a favorite cow that no one else could milk (I am not sure if this was the cow’s choice or Benj’s). One of the things I remember about his apart-ment in Los Angeles was that nestled among the books and computers were African Violets that he grew-beautiful plants in full bloom.
I often marveled that he started his life without in-door plumbing or electricity and yet went on to make his trade as an electrician. This is the man who taught me about computers. He was fantastic with figures, and at one point he was teaching me to use the same data base that NASA used to organize space shuttle parts.
When we first began our teacher/student endeavor, we were working with a computer program that compiled a family tree. Benj had kept many of the family newsletters that were sent out each year by his Uncle Joseph, and we began to pick those apart and enter the information into the program. We found a mutual love of organization, and we would often sit up after my mother and son had gone to bed and work on this. We always talked quietly, and there was only one light on by the
table where we worked. When we entered the information for his family, I asked him if he ever thought he would get married again. He said, “No, you only have one real love in your life.” I said that was sad, not so much for him, but for me since I was divorced at the time. He chuckled and said, “It might be different for you. Let’s keep working.”
I have seen pictures of him later in life, long after he and Rica divorced, and I saw captured in these photos the look on his face as she arrived at a family gathering. I know why he said there was only one real love. I don’t understand how we are meant to measure a life, but I watched a movie once that told a story of the ancient Egyptians’ belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance of heaven, the guards would ask two questions. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not. The first question was did you find joy in your life? The second question was did your life bring joy to others?
I do know that my Uncle Benj had joy in his life. I see it in the pictures of him as a boy on the farm, as a young groom, and later in life whenever he was surrounded by family. I heard it in his voice late at night when he and I would tell stories of our families. The resonance of his voice would change whenever he mentioned Anna or Sam or Rica, almost as if the beat of his heart could travel through the tone.
I also know that he brought joy to others. I cannot be an isolated case, and my joy was abundant and continues to outweigh the grief I feel that my friend, my mentor, and my uncle has come to the end of his time here with us. If there are gates to heaven, not only will he be able to answer a resounding ‘yes’ to both questions, but he
will be one of the rare few who can stand before God without a single bit of talent left and say, “I used everything you gave me.”
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