Dillon, Montana- Leonard A. Benjamin (80) died of natural causes on September 11 th , 2018; at his home
outside Dillon. His ceremony will be a private memorial at his beloved family cabin in the mountains
above Lima, Montana.
He is survived by Joye Benjamin, Dillon, Montana; children; daughter, Bonny L. (Benjamin) Peterson,
Eureka, Montana; son, Vince L. Benjamin, Seward, Alaska; his sister, Victoria; and grandchildren, Virginia
Cope, Clinton Kolschefsky and Cassandra (Benjamin) Kougl, Eureka, Montana; Wade Benjamin, Michael
Benjamin, Seward, Alaska; and four great grandchildren.
Leonard was born in Shelby, Montana to Dr. Leonard M. Benjamin and Anthony (Striedenger) Benjamin
on April 8 th , 1938. His early years were dictated by his father’s medical school training. This took him
through Missoula, Minneapolis, Denver, Butte and finally Deer Lodge in in 1946.
Leonard was “Lenny” throughout his school years in Deer Lodge. Lenny spent a lot of time with his
beloved grandfather, Harry Benjamin, in Shelby and on the farm at Oilmont, north of Shelby. After High
School Graduation in 1956 he attended the University of Montana for a brief period making the “dean’s
list” as he would say. The “dean’s List” where you drink beer and don’t go to school until they invite you
to leave college that is. Leonard was in the Army National Guard at the time and upon taking the deans
advice to leave the U of M, joined the Army.
He put in 2 years in the Army, much of it in Fort Knox, Kentucky. On his way to Fort Knox, at 19 years old,
in an old Buick he drove through Chicago. Upon stopping at a stop sign a man with a knife jumped in the
passenger’s side of the car demanding he get out so he could steal the car. At the same time, Lenny and
the thief looked down at the seat at Dad’s 38 revolver. The thief’s eyes got really big and out he went,
exiting the same door he entered. Lenny never said a word, but did lean over and lock the passenger’s
Upon returning to Montana, Lenny spent the early 1960’s mining, ranching, trucking and driving school
bus from the Jackson ranch, where he worked in Jackson, to Dillon, where he attended college. This is
where he met the one and only love of his life, Joye Van Gilder. Leonard and Joye were married in 1961
and soon had 2 children. Lenny was now “Leonard” and his first teaching job was in Browning, after 4
“interesting” years in Browning he enrolled in graduate school back at the U of M. This time, he made
the correct “dean’s list” while completing his Master’s degree in School Administration. Leonard took
the superintendent of school’s position in Geyser, in the summer of 1971. Leonard got out of the school
business and went back to his true love of ranching in Stanford in 1975. He took pride in teaching his
children his passion of hunting and fishing in the Judith Basin of Montana. All the while, instilling the
work ethic that Montana ranch kids seem to learn. After his children finished high school in Stanford,
Leonard and Joye moved back to the favored Dillon area in 1982 where he ranched and drove semi-
Living out a lifetime bucket list, he followed his son to Alaska in 1993. While in Alaska, he lived in Nome,
Valdez, Dillingham and Seward. Leonard enjoyed the outdoors of Alaska as much as Montana. Hunting
and fishing with his two children was a priority in Alaska.
Finally retiring from Southwest School District in Dillingham, Alaska he moved to Seward, Alaska in the
year 2000 to help his son build a business. Leonard’s dry humor and gentle nature made him a man of
many friends in Seward. Leonard had his “spot” at his son’s restaurant (The Salmon Bake) in Seward.
The locals knew his spot and looked for him when they entered. He loved to talk at the restaurant. It
was fun to watch. Leonard loved kids, dogs, and tolerated the rest of us. He would walk the restaurant
floor nearly every evening with free candy suckers for the kids.
The last 10 years of his life were spent outside of Dillon, Montana in a small house that he built. Much
of his time was dedicated to gopher control, the gophers won that battle. Leonard also gardened, and
spent time at the family cabin outside of Lima. Joye was with Leonard till the end, talking with him and
helping him with his needs. He was very grateful of Joye’s kindness. Leonard passed away with dignity
in his home outside of Dillon, just as he wanted to.
Leonard was preceded in death by his parents, and his brothers Harry Benjamin and Darrell Benjamin of
Memorials are suggested in the form of hugs or a phone call to your family and friends as that is what
Leonard would have wanted.