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The Mountaineer - Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada
© 2007 The Mountaineer Publishing Company Limited.


Jean Benz (nee Hickman)
July 11, 1933 – March 26, 2022


Jean Benz (nee Hickman) was born on July 11, 1933, in Calgary, Alta., to her parents, Sam and Hilda Hickman. Her younger sister, Shirley, was born three years later. At six years of age, Jean’s family moved from Irricana, Alta., to just west of Caroline. It was from here that she would walk over one mile to attend school, and even if it wasn’t uphill both ways, that is still quite impressive. During her early teenage years, Jean was heavily involved in what is now known as the 4-H Club where she learned many valuable life skills, such as baking, sewing and gardening. During one of the year-end achievement days, judges from the department of agriculture awarded Jean’s skills with a trip to the Junior Club Week at the Olds School of Agriculture. She would continue to enjoy baking and cooking throughout her life, and her family was fortunate to be the ongoing recipients of her talents in the kitchen.
In addition to school and 4-H, Jean also worked at the local post office during busy times, where she sorted and dispensed mail by hand. When she finished school in grade nine, she followed her father’s lead and found work in Calgary, first at a lunch counter and subsequently at Jenkins Grocery.
It was her relationship and marriage to Jim Benz which would ultimately lead her back to Caroline. They were married on Dec. 7, 1951, at the Innisfail Presbyterian Church on a sunny but bitterly cold day. After living in Caroline for approximately one year, they would eventually settle on the Benz family homestead with Jim’s parents just west of Caroline, where she would continue to live for the next 50-plus years of her life. Jim and Jean were blessed with two sons, Ken and Dennis Benz, born in 1952 and 1961, respectively.
Jean was a loving and doting wife and mother, and in addition to tending to the house and meals, she also contributed to chores around the farm. She learned to milk the cows and separate out the cream which was then sold to a local creamery. She would plant a garden in the summer months. She took advantage of all the fresh wild fruit that grew nearby, by canning it or serving it fresh with cow’s cream, a favourite treat of hers. The farm was without power until 1961 and running water until 1973 when Jim and Jean purchased a mobile home. Prior to this, it often felt as though Jean was running for water from the well all day long. On top of all of this, she also found time to volunteer for the Royal Purple for many years.
As the years passed by, and as her children grew and formed their own families, both Ken and Dennis set up their own homes on the Benz homestead. This created a distinctive and close knit environment where Jean’s home formed the backbone of the family. Many a birthday or holiday saw up to four generations of family jammed together into her small home, with the dinner table extending from one end of the house to the other and Jean patiently cooking, cleaning, and entertaining. Whether it was games night, a sleepover, or a random drop-in, Jean loved to have her family around her.
Sadly, Jean was predeceased by her husband, Jim, in 2003 — a tremendous loss that she handled with strength and grace. A few years later, she made the move from the farm to Columbus Place, a senior’s apartment complex in Rocky Mountain House. Over the years, she developed close friendships there and became involved in organizing various building events, such as birthday celebrations, potluck suppers, cards and bingo. Jean continued to enjoy camping right up until the end and would look forward to the first annual camping trip each May Long, no matter the weather. She loved to play washers and crib, visit with loved ones, and share her most recent stash of printed photographs.
One of the highlights of Jean’s life was a trip to England with her sons in 2006. Jean had always been scared of flying despite her husband’s encouragement over the years. When she finally made the decision to go at 73 years of age, she never looked back. She was excited and ready to leave the next day, though her sons had to slow her down and remind her of important issues such as getting a passport. Jean had the time of her life in England, the homeland of both her parents. She returned to her family’s roots, tracked down important locations, and visited extended family members she had remained in regular contact with via mail.
You see, Jean had a love and talent for documenting her family’s lineage and history, so her trip to England was the epitome of this passion. At annual Benz family reunions, Jean would always provide carefully labelled photo albums, hand written family trees, and personal stories of the past as she recalled it. They say history provides us with a sense of identity, community, and family; if so, then Jean was the glue that bound her family together. Jean continually honoured those who left before her and those who came after her through her actions, words,and presence.
Jean passed away peacefully on March 26, 2022. She is survived by her sister, Shirley Gregory; two sons, Ken and Dennis Benz (partner Sharon); and seven grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren: Tami Benz and her daughter, Jina; Jaime Neal (husband Alex Neal) and their children, Elizabeth, Marshall, and Samuel; Jason Benz (fiancé Marci) and his son, Jaden; Jennifer Benz (husband Chris Johnson) and their children, Owen and Eli; Jordan Benz (wife Shana Fischer) and their children, James, Charley and Jett; Jesse Benz (partner Lexie); and Dallas Benz (wife Chantelle Benz) and their children, Brycen, Rhys, and Brooke. She also leaves behind numerous in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends, including one granddaughter by student exchange, Carmen Becker of Germany. Jean was predeceased by her parents, Sam and Hilda Hickman, along with her husband, Jim Benz, in addition to numerous in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. She was a strong, loyal and loving woman who will forever be loved and missed.
A celebration of life was held at the Caroline Legion on Saturday, April 30, 2022, at 2 p.m. Cremation was entrusted to the Rocky Mountain Crematorium. Rocky and Sylvan Lake Funeral Homes were entrusted with the arrangements. As an expression of sympathy, memorial donations may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society, STARS Air Ambulance, or a charity of choice.