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Ventura mayor remembered for work ethic, integrity, kindness (with photos)

VENTURA | Lynn Benson wasn't a man to brag about himself.

That didn't stop colleagues from noticing his tireless work ethic.

"He was very proficient in what he did," said Ventura City Councilman John Quintas. "He didn't look like he was doing a lot, but he got a tremendous amount of work done in a day."

Benson, 64, died Friday at the Muse Norris Hospice Inpatient Unit in Mason City. Local city officials remembered him as a man of great integrity, kind spirit and a well-respected figure in Ventura and its surrounding communities.

Clear Lake Police Chief Pete Roth remembered Benson as a kind person who was always looking to help his fellow citizens.

"He would always have a big old smile on his face," Roth said. "He was a great guy to know, and meant a lot to this community."

Council members also said Benson was also a snowmobile enthusiast. Brian Vaage said Benson was part of the North Iowa Snow Seekers club, and helped organize a couple events for the group.

He was mostly known around Ventura and North Iowa for his excavating work, for which he gained a great amount of respect because of his work ethic.

And even as he battled cancer for several years, Councilman Dar Avery said he was surprised when Benson stated he wanted to be Ventura's mayor — but added he was fully committed to its responsibilities. Quintas and Vaage said he frequented the gas station in town to catch up with fellow Ventura residents.

"He wanted this job," Avery said. "He wanted to serve."

And according to Ventura City Administrator Else Taylor, Benson's respect for the position — which he held for over four years — was evident.

"He had a quiet authority about him that few people possess," Taylor said. "He ran Ventura with integrity and had a great sense of humor."

Council members said Benson's commitment to serve was in part to give back to the community, and also to partake in some of the annual festivities — including riding in the Fourth of July parade.

Benson, a Forest City native, graduated from Forest City High School in 1971. He lived in the Forest City area until 1990, when he moved to Ventura.

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 31, at Cataldo Schott Funeral Chapel in Forest City. A procession will follow to the Ventura Community Center, assisted by Ventura city officials and the Clear Lake-Ventura Police Department.

Family and friends invite the public to join them at the Ventura Community Center from 2-4 p.m. to celebrate Benson's life. Instead of flowers, his family asks that memorials be made out to the Lynn Benson memorial fund.

Council members are still deciding how their next mayor will be chosen. According to Iowa law, they have either 60 days from the day the vacancy began to appoint a replacement, or they can choose to hold a special election, among other options.

For now, though, they are focusing on the life of a man who worked seven days a week, but seldom gloated about it.

In an example of that, Quintas told a story about how Benson was working several years ago at the site of the Love's gas station in Floyd. He was doing "dirt work" at the site, subbing in for Charlson Excavating.

"The foreman on the crew ... for the company in charge of all of it came up to him (Benson) and goes, 'You're pretty smooth at this,'" Quintas said. "And he goes, 'Yea, I do alright.'" And (the foreman) goes, 'No, seriously, I'm watching. You're making three trips to their one.'"

"He would do it in a manner where you wouldn't notice it ... (he was) very humble," Quintas added.

North Iowa Band Festival names grand marshal, band master recipients

MASON CITY | The Chamber of Commerce has announced the honorees for the 80th North Iowa Band Festival. The festival, which will take place in downtown Mason City, is Memorial Day weekend, May 24-28.

It will sport a "Totally 80s" theme to celebrate the festival's 80th year.

The Grand Marshal Award, which honors people who have significantly contributed to the development, history and/or success of the festival, was given to Fred and Ila Mare Fenchel.

According to a news release from the Chamber, Fred has been a Chamber of Commerce Ambassador for six decades, and was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. His wife, Ila Mae, has also been a key part to the festival's success, according to Chamber President and CEO Robin Anderson.

"If it’s raining, Ila Mae is right there to hand Fred an umbrella to shelter the royalty," Anderson said in a statement. "But rain or shine, they’re both sporting a welcoming smile."


The Klempnauer Award, named for long-time volunteer and festival supporter Dan Klempnauer, is meant to recognize an "unsung" hero who works behind-the-scenes during the festivities. 

This year's winner is Bob Fisher, a three time All-State musician and long-time member of the Mason City Municipal Band. As news director for Alpha Media USA, he broadcasts the parade live to listeners, according to a news release.

Arian Schuessler / Submitted 


Lastly, the Band Master Award — first given in 1990 to honor a retiring band master who has worked extensively in educating local youth in music education — was given to Mike McEniry.

McEniry is a retired Mason City High School band instructor at Mason City High School. He also conducted the high school's jazz band performances, and still partakes in the Municipal Band. This year will be his 39th Band Festival Parade.