April 05, 1922 - September 22, 2006
Benjamin Fredrick Sinerius died Friday September 22, 2006.
Bennie was born April 5, 1922 the sixth of seven children born to Crimean and German immigrant homesteaders Rosina Fischer and Fredrick Sinerius on his mother’s homestead near present day Zap North Dakota. His mother (born 12/18/85 died 1960) had no schooling at all but could read and recognize her name and had to get someone to read to her. Bennie did a lot of the writing for his family even when he was in the fourth grade. He said his father could read but his writing was like they had in Germany. His Father couldn’t write in English. So early on in his life Bennie developed a feeling of importance that derived from handling anything that required reading, writing and legal matters. Like his siblings, Frida, Herman Albert, Albert Herman, Frank Sinerius, Fredrick, Henry Fredrick (Mike) and Arthur the youngest, Bennie was a fiercely independent and stubborn man, quick to temper and just as quick to laugh that came from his capable German stock.
The land represented opportunity and defeat for the Sinerius clan; Bennie said his Father discovered that North Dakota was all open for homestead so he homesteaded where the coal mine started. Bennie claimed that his father was the one who discovered the coal and then they got busy and got the railroad to come in there but his father was disappointed that he couldn’t farm his homestead because the top soil was less than 6 inches deep and he couldn’t even plow the land because of the enormity of the coal deposit. His would just dig and dig and hit nothing but coal, disappointed that the land would not support his dream of farming watermelon he sold out the worthless land to the Zap Colary Company around 1918 or even earlier than that. The land eventually became what Bennie said was the largest coal mine in the world or at least the United States. He sadly said that his Father sold the land and we never saw any papers. Bennie himself tasted that defeat as at one time he held claim to over 395 mining claims in the surrounding Montana hills, North Dakota and Wyoming. Bennie believed that the mother lode was just around the corner and all that he had to do was just hang in there and dig long enough and all of his dreams would come true. He spent a lifetime searching for the fortune his father had given up so easily trying to grow a watermelon. Bennie dreamed of gold dust while he blew up and leveled mountains mining and assaying across National Forest property. He engineered roads and bridges that the Forest Service claimed were unauthorized and followed along behind him demolishing them as fast as he build them.
Bennie lived on his mother’s homestead and helped work his parents’ farm as he went through grade school. In 1924 the family went to a movie in Zap and the house burnt to the ground. Bennie went to school up through the eighth grade. He tried to go to High School but he was working for Hellum for board and room but it did no good. At first he recalled he had eight hogs to feed the next thing he knew he had two dozen hogs to feed and it just kept going like that with more hogs showing up to be fed every time he turned around. Pretty soon Bennie was surrounded by hogs and that Hellum would sit in the bar all day and then at night he would go and butcher a hog and Bennie was working day and night and he was only a year out of grade school. He wasn’t allowed to use the light to read at night and when he got out of school he always had to help butcher a hog and take care of the livestock. Bennie gathered up his clothes and left. He leased a piece of land and began farming for himself.
In 1937 or 38 the bank foreclosed on his parents’ farm and they and Art moved into the farmhouse that was leased to Bennie. Mike was away at the war at the time. After a series of disheartening events Bennie left North Dakota for the Reach School of Auctioneering in Mason City Iowa for a two week education. After that he went up to Minneapolis and turned south to see some of the country. The auction thing wasn’t to be because you had to have a bond in order to auctioneer and he just couldn’t come up with the cash.
In 1943 Bennie took off for Montana with brother Frog tagging along with him. The two went to Helena and knocked around and Bennie got a job at the smelter in Helena. He pulled in twelve dollars a shift. He and Frog had a falling out and Bennie wanted to leave but he was froze to the job at the smelter and couldn’t find a way to get out of it and try something else. Albert sent him a telegram that said to come up there and try his hand at some farming. Bennie used the guise of a family emergency to leave the job (he never even got his money because he was froze when he left) he wound up on the Peterson Ranch farming and ranching north of Havre, Montana. They had over 300 head of cattle and 700 acres under cultivation. The idea of freezing you to the job came up at the end of WWII and was kind of a way of keeping a guy out of the service and there at home working so the country would keep moving and not come to a complete stop.
Bennie also found employment as a cook at any café that would take him and met Lavada at The White Dove café in Deer Lodge where he went behind the counter and showed her how a steak should be cooked. Bennie and Lavada married in 1952, divorced in 1972. They had two children, Sharon Kay, (Sheri) Feb 15, 1955 and Benjamin Dean Feb 3, 1958. Both attended Powell County High School and excelled in their sports and extra curricular activities. Both Dean and Sheri put them selves through college. Dean was in the military and currently works as the Senior planner for an airlines while Sheri painted and sculpted, exhibiting her artwork from New York to Seattle. Bennie was proud to have nine grandchildren, Dean’s children: Christopher, Sean, and Patrick, Sharon’s children: Christina, Amity, Jason, Aaron, Matthew and Brian. He has eight great grand children. His daughter Sheri is married to Terry Bloor, the Chief Deputy Prosecutor for Benton County Criminal Felony Division and paints out of her own studio in Richland WA. Dean is employed as Senior Planner for Mesa Air and lives in Phoenix Arizona with his wife Maryann.
Bennie was hired by Wallin Ford Sales in Deer Lodge in 1950 and learned to do body and mechanic work on the job while he was promoting himself as an expert body man. He learned quickly and opened Sinerius Body Shop around 1955 and dreamed of opening a parts store to operate along beside it. Bennie became the expert body man he advertised himself to be and maintained a steady of business restoring automobiles for Harrah’s. He lavished his time on beautiful hand rubbed lacquer paint jobs and machined parts for the vehicles. He built a tow truck and added towing service to his business; he became interested in snowmobiling and added a snowmobile franchise. He raced the snowmobiles and made Sheri race. She won but only because he only showed her how to work the gas and not the brake.
Bennie proudly served a stint as Under Sheriff for Powell County. He was active in the community and participated in the demolition derbies for the Elks by building the cars and driving them. Bennie was a member of the Moose, a bowler and sponsored both a men’s and a woman’s bowling team for Sinerius Body Shop.
Bennie was a volunteer fireman for the Deer Lodge Fire Department and was honored with an award for his many years of continuous service. He fought the grain elevator fire that was so spectacular that it almost seemed the entire community turned out to watch, sitting in their cars and noshing on snacks they had brought to tide them over. They fought house fires and fires and riots at the prison. On one occasion the fire department was called to the body shop where Bennie himself had accidentally sparked a fire while working on a gas tank and was so excited that in a state of panic he ran to the creek and threw the phone book in and then ran back up and was too out of breath to help the fire truck as it arrived. His happiest memories were of the Fire Department decorating the city for Christmas each year hanging the lights and garland across the streets making good use of the fire truck. They spent evenings together and talked and stuffed bag after bag full of candy canes, hard candies and popcorn balls and brought Santa in on the fire truck. Every kid in town would line up to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas and get a bag of candy. But one year the “Rockwell Christmas image” of the fine City of Deer Lodge was shattered when the fireman went all out and flew Santa in on a helicopter. Bennie said that Santa had been hitting the bottle pretty heavy and he threw up on some kid’s red boots and hardly anyone got to sit on his lap and they had to take him out of there because he had even puked on his red Santa suit and who knows if anyone got what they wanted for Christmas that year.
He golfed, boated and water skied. He was famous for being able to ski off of the dock and not get into the water which in Montana he said was too damn cold to enter at any time of year. Lavada won a boat in a raffle and they could pull six skiers at one time with it. Bennie started a war that never ended between the two of them when he traded the boat for a semi truck cab that sat in the dirt drive way next to the dirt lawn next to the tar paper covered almost house for more than a year and caused a fight every time Lavada looked at it.
Bennie enjoyed traveling to Washington to Salmon fish. The sight of the interior of the freezer lined with neat rows of frozen milk cartons with fish tails sticking out one after the other was a yearly occurrence and hunting season never passed without him getting his ducks, geese, deer, elk and the occasional moose.
Bennie’s pride possession was a Gibson Hollow Body Guitar that he learned to play by ear; he also played the harmonica and accordion. He decided that his daughter would be the next Benny Goodman and stuck a clarinet in her mouth and demanded that she play. He decided that his son, Dean would be the next Myron Florin and horse traded with a traveling music salesman to get his boy an accordion and sent him to school to tell the music teacher to put him in the marching band (there wasn’t one). It gave this writer a bit of perverse pleasure to see the music teacher’s face as he glared at the tow head and his accordion the first day of music class. The entire instrument was out of tune, as was the kid. The joke was over when he got his daughter a Magnus chord organ for Christmas and put it on the back of the wrecker an took it to school so she could play it in the school band. There was no way to convince him that it was not as good if not better than a piano because with some rigging it could be in parades.
Bennie loved Lawrence Welk and dancing. He would polka and dance until he couldn’t dance anymore. He looked forward to the Elks and Moose banquets and acted as auctioneer for the Rainbow Girls Father Daughter box lunch social.
He saw a painting on velvet so he purchased paint and velvet and made his daughter paint on velvet because if she could do that it would mean she was good. Then he parked a pickup truck at the garrison turn off across from a fella who had brought up a lot of paintings on velvet from Mexico and told her to sell them and he would be back later to get her. She didn’t sell a thing. So he showed her his mechanics calendars with the pages you lift up and the girls clothes come off and told her that if she could paint like that then she would be good and everyone would know it. Even after this strange form of child abuse his daughter did grow up to be an artist, her work was censored by the City of Pasco and Bennie couldn’t understand her work or what it was about. He thought maybe she should try an Elk or a nice Indian, something like that.
Bennie elevated excrement to a term of endearment. He referred to his children, and many nieces and nephews as you little “shit” with the exception of Lorri whom he referred to as the “Carrot Top.”
Bennie unknowingly destroyed his own health by working with the solvents, fiberglass, asbestos, and the mines for many years. He also became addicted to cortisone during a course of medical treatment and then required a shot of Kenalog once a month for the rest of his life going through withdrawal if he could not get the shot. He battled congestive heart failure, mental illness and diabetes among numerous other health problems. Bennie was constantly battling windmills, a Don Quixote pointing his lance jousting with the “Pine Tree Pimps, Bench Clowns and Bench Pimps “ and feeling justified at the constant jabs he rendered them. Bennie was litigious and sued those who used to be his friends and his family thanks those who had the decency to overlook his threats and in the end protect him. Bennie lost his eyesight and drove without a license and uninsured. He sued the Highway patrol for arresting him. For decades Bennie went to sleep at night watching Perry Mason and dreamed of his own Perry Mason moment and hoped for his day in court when he would right all of the wrongs that had been done to him.
In the end after 50 years of operating a body shop only a screw driver remained that had not been pilfered from his Body Shop, his guns guitar and items of sentimental value were all gone, stolen. His property was gone. He teared up at the demise of his dreams and his life’s work. Bennie was a proud man who never retired. When he lost his eyesight he still wanted to get back to work. He was a tough old buzzard that lived many times even though the Drs often thought he would die before the night was over. In the end it was determination that kept him hanging on. He loved Deer Lodge and he loved having someone to tell his troubles to, you know who you are and for those kind moments and gifts of time you have so generously and lovingly given to him we sincerely thank you. A Memorial Services is scheduled for 5 P.M, Friday at Einans in Richland WA, kind of over by the Swan pond. An outdoor memorial service at his mine near Deer Lodge Montana is being planned for the summer solstice. You may log on to the website www.einansfuneralhome.com. Bennie always wanted a grafted fruit tree that grew 7 different kinds of fruit. You are welcome to contribute towards this tree or a mechanic tools fund for his grandson who is following in his footsteps. A memorial of your choice is appropriate and the family thanks you for stopping to share your thoughts.