Shirley M. Benes

Wednesday, December 15, 2021
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Shirley M. Benes, 82, of Winifred went home to her Lord Dec. 12, 2021, in her home with family surrounding her after many months of pain, determined to be cancer the first week of December. It is impossible to tell the story of one’s life in a few short words especially when this person understood God’s love so deeply, she wanted to share His love with others. Through words, acts of kindness and generosity Shirley Marie Reppe Thompson Benes lived God’s love. She was born to Thomas Orren Reppe and Marion Schellhammer Reppe on Jan. 8, 1939, at her grandparent’s farm house near Lansing, Iowa. She was the oldest of eight children.

Shirley started school when she was five years old and found the one-mile walk to school very lonely. She liked the one room schoolhouse where she could learn right along with the older kids. In 1954 Shirley’s family moved to Winifred for her dad to manage a ranch for his uncles. When Shirley saw Winifred, she vowed she would stay until she graduated high school, and then she was headed back to Iowa. Shirley never left Winifred. She had the dubious honor of doubling the female population of her class of nine boys and one girl and settled into the community.

Shirley married Thomas Thompson Dec. 2, 1956. God blessed them with Kevin Donald, Valerie Sue and Audrey Faye. Shirley and Tom divorced in 1972. Shirley married Sam Benes Feb. 2, 1980. Shirley was glad to adopt Sam’s three daughters, Sharon, Debbie, and Holly into her heart, always telling people about her FIVE daughters. Sam died Dec. 13, 1996. Shirley continued loving, supporting and caring for her five daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As a mom, she offered unconditional love and support. As a grandmother she wanted to make sure she passed on her story. In 2008 she gave each one a book, complete with pictures and recipes, titled “Memories of Your Grandma Shirley.” As a great-grandmother she continued passing on her secrets, most recently spending the day teaching her greatgranddaughter how to make grandma’s special caramel rolls.

Shirley was bored when her youngest daughter started school in 1968. So, she took a job as a bookkeeper for the Famers Union Co-op of Winifred. She continued to work for the Farmers Union for 38 years, becoming Montana’s first female co-op manager in 1990. In 1997 Shirley was named Montana’s Co-op Manager of the Year. She retired in 2006. Shirley was a savvy business woman and had definite ideas of how things should be done. These ideas were not always welcomed by employees, but they learned it was easier to do it her way than not to.

Then she got busy giving back to the community of Winifred. In her younger years Shirley was a member of the pinochle and woman’s club where she was always excited to work on the community calendar. Shirley was instrumental in building the community a swimming pool and having an ambulance with trained volunteers. At the time of her death, she had quit going on runs, but was still keeping the ambulance records.

She was voted onto the Winifred City Council in 2008 and made a last deciding vote the week of her death. Since 1999 she has managed the Winifred Endowment and was honored with the Central Montana Endowment Friends award in 2018. With her initiative, the main street of Winifred is lined with flower pots. Shirley took great delight in ensuring the pots were always planted and then driving young members of the community around to water them weekly. Each pot takes three gallons of water, no more, no less. Shirley also took great interest in the Winifred Cemetery where she found over 40 unmarked graves. With her attention to detail, she was able to identify each grave and her and her father spent one summer creating permanent markers for the graves to honor the dead.

Shirley loved Jesus and was so grateful for His grace and love. Although she knew she didn’t have to do anything to earn this grace, she wanted to serve in Jesus’ name. As a young woman she was active in the ALCW and served several years as Sunday School superintendent. She trained as a Stephen’s Minister and used this training specially to minister to others whose child had died or had suffered the pain of divorce. Shirley served in many leadership positions at American Lutheran, including council president for 13 years, secretary, deacon, and at the time of her death, trustee. Shirley found great joy in leading the Angel Tree program; taking youth to shop for other youth in need, wrapping presents and making sure they were delivered. She never expected any recognition for her service; she served to the glory of God.

Shirley is survived by her daughter, Audrey (Eric) Rydbom, of Sidney; step-daughters: Sharon (George) Warn of Helena; Debbie Russell of Tyler, Texas, and Holly (David) Buys, of Williston, North Dakota; grandsons: Sam (Mariesa) Nelson of Clinton, Sam (Hannah) Warn Omaha, Neb., Connor Russell of Georgetown, Texas, Brandon Russell of Columbus, Ohio, Austin Russell of Austin, Texas, Parker Rydbom of Kansas City, Mo., and Justin (Melissa) Zendrosky of Chesapeake, Va.; granddaughters: Kyla (Shawn) Horton of Missoula, Dawn (Ben) Schriber of Broken Arrow, Okla., Alicia Nelson of Great Falls, Britany Short, Brittany Camins of Billings, Jessica (Kyle) Harper of Billings, and Claire Rydbom of Overland Park, Kans.; 25 great-grandchildren; brothers: Roland Reppe of Lewistown, Roger (Sue) Reppe of Great Falls, and Orren (Nancy) Reppe of Columbia Falls; sisters: Darlene (Jerry) Udelhoven of Danville, Calif., and Jean Halvorson of Big Fork.

Larry Arthur of Winifred was a devoted friend and companion to Shirley for the past several years. Shirley was preceded in death by her husband, Samuel

Shirley was preceded in death by her husband, Samuel Benes; parents, Tom and Marion Reppe; son, Kevin Thompson; daughter, Valerie Thompson; sisters Carolyn Sunkenberg and Deloris Udelhoven, and great-granddaughter Nevaeh Cocking-Bohler.

Funeral services for Shirley Benes will be Saturday, Dec. 18, at 11 a.m. in the American Lutheran Church of Winifred, with committal in the Winifred Cemetery. The Cloyd Funeral Home is assisting the family.

Visitation will be Friday, Dec. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the American Lutheran Church in Winifred.

Memorials can be made to the Winifred Endowment in care of the Central Montana Foundation, the American Lutheran Church of Winifred, or the charity of your choice. They may also be left with the Cloyd Funeral Home. Condolences for the family may be posted online at www.cloydfuneralhome.com.

The family is forever grateful to those who loved and helped Shirley over the past several years in Winifred: Pat Slivka, Jamie Wickens, Kristen Carlstrom, Theresa Lee, Travis and Becky Wilson, and Donna Econom. I am sure there are many more, just know her family is grateful. We would also like to thank Central Montana Hospice who showed up when we needed them most Friday night and Krystal Schultz who found a way to make mom comfortable. Finally, doctors Martin and Martignoni, who gave mom care of the highest standards.

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