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George E. Benner, Jr., “Buck,” was born in Grand Forks, N.D., on May 13, 1939, to George E. Benner and Lois (Vanderhoef) Benner. It was during his years in Grand Forks that he acquired his insatiable and never-ending love for books, music, shotguns, hunting and decoys. He was graduated from Grand Forks Central High School in 1957. After graduation, he went on to attend the University of North Dakota, graduating with a business degree. While at UND, he was a member of a renowned men’s choir, The Varsity Bards, and travelled throughout the midwest performing. He was a steadfast supporter of Fighting Sioux athletics, particularly men’s hockey, and a proud member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
He met Karen Lehr, who was the love of his life and his dearest friend, while attending Central High School. They dated through their years at UND and were married on June 10, 1962. While wishing for more, they enjoyed every minute of their 50 years of marriage and never stopped supporting and caring for each other.
After their wedding, Buck and Karen moved to Denver, Colo., where Buck attended Denver University School of Law while Karen taught school. Buck finished law school in two and one-half years, graduating number two in his class. He was inducted into the Order of the Coif and wrote for the Law Review. While opportunities presented themselves to work in large law firms, Buck wanted to work where he wanted to live rather than live where he had to work. That decision resulted in Buck and Karen choosing to move to Meeker, Colo.
Buck loved Meeker, Rio Blanco County and Colorado because of all that it offered and the people. For work, Buck practiced law. He particularly loved working on real estate problems because of the ability to learn about the history of the people behind the land and the land itself. He took great pride in representing Rio Blanco County for more than 40 years and wanted nothing more than for the county and its people to be better off. Buck proudly defended abused and neglected children for 32 years, always advocating for their best welfare. While he loved his work, Buck loved his life away from work more. More than not, when asked what he did for a living, he would announce he was a firefighter. He enjoyed and was proud to have been a member of the Meeker Volunteer Fire Department for more than 20 years. He also enjoyed volunteering for the Meeker Lions Club, especially cutting Christmas trees and frying hamburgers for the Fourth of July.
Buck was defined not by his work but for who he was. He lived and lived well. Buck spent life enjoying nearly every minute. He loved to hike, hunt, fish, camp, explore, learn, create, run and eat ice cream. Buck paddled his canoe in Canada yearly for nearly 30 years; rafted the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, the White River; walked across Kenya; chased pheasants, ducks, geese, deer and elk and snowmobiled the high country with his friends and family; ran marathons; carved decoys and totem poles; and appreciated and enjoyed every experience he was given.
More than anything else, Buck loved Karen, his daughter Krista and her children Jordan, Lauren and Patrick; his son Robert, daughter-in-law Emily and their children Andrew, Stephen and Thomas. He was always there for support, encouragement, a smile or a laugh. Close behind were his friends and his ill-mannered dogs.
Buck passed away on New Year’s Eve, 2012. He loved his life and we love him. Every room and life will be less bright without him. He was a magnificent man, a wonderful husband, a tremendous father, a grandfather second to none, and a first class friend.
Buck was preceded in death by his parents, George and Lois Benner. He is survived by his sister Barbara (Alan) Olson; his wife Karen, daughter Krista Benner (Littleton, Colo.) and son Robert (Emily) Benner (Rochester, Minn.), his six grandchildren; his favorite cousin and partner in trouble Craig T. Vanderhoef, and many very close friends.
Memorial donations may be made to the Meeker Lions Club in care of First National Bank of the Rockies, P.O. Box 600 Meeker, Colo., 81641; Ronald McDonald House, 932 Potomac Circle, Aurora, Colo., 80011; or Ducks Unlimited, NW Colorado Chapter in care of Grant Mortuary, P.O. Box 333, Meeker, Colo., 81641.