Harry Wilbur Benoist passed peacefully in his sleep Dec. 12, 2017, at the age of 101 years, at the home of his youngest daughter, Debora Benoist Esque, of Sonora. Harry had lived alone in the family house in Santa Clara until the age of 98 prior to moving to Sonora.
Harry was born in the very small town of Irondale, Missouri, on June 21, 1916, to Harry Alfred Benoist and Bessie Forshee, both of Missouri. They shortly moved to Pittsburgh, Kansas, where Harry, his older sister, Helen, and their younger brother, Ray (both of whom have passed), attended a one-room school house. Each row of students represented a different grade.
Harry served 29 years in the United States Navy and retired with the highest enlisted rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, E9. He was 25 when he joined the Navy in Portland, Oregon, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was assigned to a brand new destroyer, the USS Farenholt, for the duration of the war. The Farenholt was highly decorated, earning 13 Service Stars in the South Pacific Campaign against the Japanese. His ship sometimes anchored in the same harbor where JFK's PT 109 was stationed.
Harry met his wife, Ortensia Arroyo, in San Diego, where the ship was being fitted before going to war. They married in 1942; Ortie, passed in 1974 after 32 years of marriage. He then was blessed to meet his last love of his life, Mary Ellen Cook, who preceded him in death in 2003.
He is survived by three children, son, Rodney Benoist (his wife, Danielle Minto Benoist), of Washington State; daughters, Sandra Lambert (her husband Gary Lambert), of Manteca, and Debora Esque (her significant other, Jim Opie), of Sonora; five grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-granddaughters.
Harry was a member of St. James’ Episcopal Church, The Red Church, in Sonora.
A celebration will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 27 at the historical Red Church. Military honors will be rendered.