Joe Benz, 62, of Ketchum, Idaho, passed away peacefully in his sleep at home on the evening of April 5, 2011, after battling tonsil and liver cancer for the past year. Joe was born in Lafayette, Ind., to Stan and Sally Benz while his dad was working on his Ph.D. at Purdue University. In 1950, Joe and his family with brother John moved to San Jose, Calif., where his father had accepted the position of dean of men at San Jose State University.
As a young man, Joe enjoyed many family camping trips and was active in the Boy Scouts, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. In high school he excelled in many sports, notably track and field where he won medals in the long jump and relay races. At the University of Oregon, Joe joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity where he made lifelong friends. Upon graduation in 1969, Joe pursued a career in physical education with city recreation departments.
Moving to Ketchum, Idaho, in 1972, Joe's sense for and love of independent business opportunities led him to establish a cookies and juice business while lifeguarding. Progressing from there through a number of food and beverage positions, he and Brian Barsotti opened Barsotti & Benz's Beer & Basics at the base of the Warm Springs ski lift, a restaurant today remembered as one of Ketchum's "must visit" icons of the 1970s. Joe then moved into the sunglass and specialty fisherman eyewear business and with his incredible work ethic over 30 years dramatically expanded his company's business in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and achieved status as the company's top independent producer.
Joe was a loving husband and brother, and a devoted father above all. He led a wonderfully fulfilled life and spent memorable family times camping, fishing and skiing with his sons. He also enjoyed vacationing in Belize and Mexico where he and his family spent many happy days. Remembered as a leader, yet selfless and kind, Joe developed and maintained friendships for life. Ever the gentleman and always sociable and living life to the fullest, he was an extraordinary person always with a smile and full of laughter. Quite simply, all who knew him would agree that the world is a better place for Joe's having been in our lives. To his many friends in the Wood River Valley, to his beloved aunts Amy and Mary, and to his extended family in Kansas and Nebraska, we ask that you smile when you think of him.
Joe is survived by his wife, Tina; sons, Taylor and Colby; all of Ketchum, Idaho; and his brother, John, of Park City, Utah.
Separate, private remembrances celebrating Joe's wonderful life will be scheduled later this summer. Memorial donations may be made to Hospice & Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley, Box 4320, Ketchum, ID 83340. Arrangements are under the care of Wood River Chapel. Friends are invited to leave condolences and share memories at www.woodriverchapel.com.