- Published: January 5, 2012
Born Aug. 7, 1931 in Yellow Springs to Elizabeth Bennett Whitmore and Robert Houston Whitmore, Ben was the oldest of a family of five siblings — two brothers and two sisters. His father, an acclaimed American artist, taught fine arts courses in drawing and painting at Antioch College in Yellow Springs for 30 years. His mother, an author of children’s books, was librarian there.
The family lived an idyllic and quiet farm life, on 40 acres near school. Ben, tall and skinny with electric blue eyes, grew up surrounded by the arts, music and Christian Science teachings.
A lifelong and class-taught Christian Scientist, Ben moved from the family farm in Ohio to Spokane, Wash. in the early 1950s. He was lured by mountains and wanted to live in or near them. He took to skiing like a duck to water, and spent every moment improving his skills at this sport he loved, or driving his prized possession: a dark green MG TD.
Ben served in the United States Air Force in the 1950s as an airman second class in the 92nd Periodic Maintenance Squad at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, hoping to follow his dream to learn to fly. During that time, he met and married Patricia Lou Payne.
After his honorable discharge from military service, Ben attended art school in Columbus and Dayton, where the couple had two daughters, Lee Catherine Whitmore and Deborah Jill Whitmore, before moving back to Spokane.
From the start his life was devoted to his art, his music, his love of mountains and hiking in them, his devotion to nature and gardening, skiing, airplanes, hunting mushrooms and service to his church.
He frequented nursing homes and senior centers to play his accordion, offering lively American and European dance, folk and classical music which always brought joy to many people. He had an unstoppable sense of humor and huge grin, and loved to make people laugh.
His art was big and beautiful or small and intricate — large iron candle lamps, commissioned for many beautiful homes around the Spokane area; bright-colored and modernistic mobiles; complex copper-enameled bowls and jewelry and “The Highlander,” a 14-foot-tall copper enameled replica of the mascot for Shadle Park High School in Spokane, commissioned by and created for the school in the early 1960s.
Ben remarried Evelyn Barney of Spokane following a divorce with his first wife after more than 14 years of marriage. The two were married for 26 years before Evelyn passed away.
Ben is survived by his two daughters, Lee Catherine Keller Rusch of Wash. and Deborah Jill Whitmore Keller of Colo., grandson Jacob John Anthony Keller Rusch, sister Diantha Waymire of Calif., brothers David Whitmore of Virginia and Jon Whitmore of Ohio and extended members of the Barney family of Washington.
Monetary remembrances in honor of Robert Bennett Whitmore’s beautiful life can be made to Fern Lodge in Castro Valley, Calif. or Second Church of Christ Scientist, in Spokane Wash.