Robert “Rob” Gardner Benson
December 30, 1957
– September 20, 2020
ALAMOSA — Once upon a time, a middle school teacher/coach told Robert Benson that he would never amount to anything. Hmmm…
It’s impossible to summarize Rob’s life in a few paragraphs, but the following is a bullet list of some, but by no means all, of the highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be), in somewhat sequential order:
•born in New London, Connecticut to Robert A. and Margaret M. Benson
•grew up in Cohasset, Massachusetts, where he shot up taller than his mom by age 10
•held Alison Aronson’s hand under the dinner table at Winter Harbor, Maine (according to sis MJ but not fact-checked)
•taught sailing on Cape Cod Bay
•rowed at Tabor Academy and University of Washington
•flunked out of UDub, redeemed himself, earned a degree in geology
•worked as a geologist in Alaska, where he absorbed invaluable advice such as how to outrun a grizzly (shoot your field partner in the foot)
•married Rynn Nichols and fathered a set of towheaded boys
•Moscow, Idaho, and a masters degree (U of Idaho)
•worked at Battle Mountain Gold in (where else?) Battle Mountain, Nevada (designated the “Armpit of America” by Washington Post Sunday Magazine)
•moved to Alamosa, Colorado to work at Battle Mountain Gold’s San Luis mine
•fell in love with green chili the moment it first kissed his tongue
•broke up swordfight between the aforementioned towheaded boys, who had weaponed his prize Wusthof chef’s knives
•laid off by Battle Mountain Gold
•licked wounds, picked himself up, shook himself off, and enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Colorado School of Mines
•graduated Mines in 1997 and landed a teaching position at Adams State University, where he taught geosciences for over 20 years and made lifelong friends – and no doubt an enemy or two
•after the end of his marriage to Rynn, Lewis & Clarked online dating, where, after a few false starts, he met Sheri Keasler and soon became stepfather to Sarah and Jake, bestowing upon his own sons, Nick and Will, a wicked stepmom.
Rob was kind and loving, loyal, strong, vulnerable, sensitive, nerdy, cool, caring, passionate, unpretentious. He took an interest in people from all backgrounds and walks of life. He invited students left behind on campus to Thanksgiving dinner. His favorite movie line was “Back off, man, I’m a scientist.” He loved to talk woodworking with son Will. Despite son Nick’s best efforts, Rob took his fashion cues from no one. On any given day you’d find him in tattered shirt and faded Carhartts. And socks with sandals – sacrilege in Nick’s book.
Rob had a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. He played a mean game of cribbage. He loved to flyfish and build scale models and cook. He mispronounced (Yankee-style) the words “aunt,” “either” and “orange,” among others. He once had a full head of flowing blond locks (fact check: true).
Rob made an impact on the lives of many, particularly his students, as encapsulated by the remarks of Katie Schultz, Adams State’s 2020 Exceptional New Alumna: “Dr. Benson encouraged me to keep going no matter how difficult or challenging things became, academically or personally. It only takes one person who truly believes in you to make all the difference in your life.”
Rob will be missed as a father, son, brother, husband, grandfather, uncle, friend and teacher. Left to remember him with love are his sons, Nick Benson and Will Benson; his wife, Sheri Keasler-Benson; his stepchildren, Sarah Rosenau and Jacob Smith; grandchildren, Soren Benson, Austin Smith and Emerson Rosenau; parents, Robert (Bob) and Margaret (Marge) Benson; sisters Margaret (Peggy) Gyulai and Mary Jane (MJ) Benson; daughters-in-law, Stephanie Benson and Sofia Pinho Benson; son-in-law, Travis Rosenau; brothers-in-law, Chip Benson and Trace Keasler; sisters-in-law, Anna Tidwell and Julie Keasler; niece, Elsa Benson, and nephews, Greg Gyulai and Thacher Benson; as well as Laszlo (Laci) Gyulai, who loved him like a brother, and Frank Aldrich, Nancy Margarita Aldrich and Lucia Aldrich, to whom he was “Tío Rob.”
Rob’s family will be forever grateful to the Sarcoma Team doctors and nurses at University of Colorado Health and to Ed Kulp of San Luis Valley Health, as well as to Kendra Decker of Hospice del Valle, for her forthrightness and compassion.
Due to Covid-19 concerns, the family will not hold a service but instead invites you to visit www.RogersFunerals.com and share your memories of him. Per his instructions, Rob’s family plans to gather in Maine for an “Irish wake” of sorts, where anyone wearing black will not be admitted. Rob is not dead. He lives on in the hearts of those whose lives he touched.
Memorial contributions may be made to the ASU Foundation Migrant STEAM Academy, a program near and dear to Rob’s heart. Checks may be sent to 208 Edgemont Blvd., Alamosa, CO 81101; credit card contributions may be made by calling (719) 587-7122.