Robert C. VanBenschoten, 94, Henderson

HENDERSON, NY — Robert C. VanBenschoten, 94, Henderson, passed away Sunday evening at his home under the care of his family and Hospice of Jefferson County.

This is what he was. Robert (Van) was born in the Bronx New York City on June 18, 1924. He was the son of Harry VanBenschoten but was raised by his mother Jean and step father Charles Orr. He graduated from Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx in 1942. He enlisted in the Navy after graduation and served aboard the USS YMS 251, a wooden minesweeper during World War ll. He was discharged from the Navy with the rank of Quartermaster 2nd Class in 1946. After the war he returned home and completed New York State Police School in May 1947. During his 32 year career as a trooper he was stationed throughout Northern New York. When he retired in 1977 he was stationed in Watertown and had attained the rank of zone sergeant. After his retirement from the state police he spent many years working for Robert Wehle. He married Shirley Palmer of Mannsville in 1952 and they had 4 Children.

This is who he was. He had a passion for the sea that began when he was a child sailing canoes on Long Island Sound. He was never without some kind of boat each one a little bigger than the one before, always made of wood. His passion for sailing them was matched by his devotion to their care. He was tough, he was stubborn, he was determined. He enlisted in the Navy when he was just 17. He fought in a war an ocean away from home in a time before email and cell phones when it could take weeks for a letter from home to find you. He joined the State Police when the pay was $17 a week and you lived in a barracks always on call. Early in his career he rode a motorcycle until he crashed his bike while in pursuit and although he never fully recovered he went back to work and stayed on the job until he reached his mandatory retirement age of 55. After the death of his beloved wife Shirley in 2011 he had to learn how to navigate life on his own. A man once rigid, used to giving orders, bound to rules and uniforms learned to bend, to accept help, to cook his own eggs. He did not forfeit – ever – but he did, sometimes reluctantly, adjust his sails with grace and humor. He was grit and wit until the very end.

Robert is survived by his Half-brother Richard See, a daughter and son-in-law Julie and Barry West Henderson, 3 sons and a daughter-in-law David and Sue, Henderson, James, Seattle, and Richard, Henderson. Four grandchildren, Ryan and his wife Leann West, Jamie and her husband Justin McGiver, Andrea VanBenschoten, and Shaie Elmer, and 3 great grandchildren. His wife Shirley predeceased him.

There will be no service or calling hours. He had a heartfelt love of nature so in lieu of flowers please consider a donation in his memory to an organization of your choice that is dedicated to preserving the environment or to Hospice of Jefferson County for their compassionate care.

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