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Benjamin Carlson

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Benjamin Carlson passed away on Jan. 3, 2019, at the age of 82 in Jacksonville, Fla. The cause was congestive heart failure.

He was born in Lorain, Ohio, on May 14, 1936, to Edna Dellinger Carlson and Dr. Benjamin Carlson. Ben and his three older sisters grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, and he developed a love of the water, swimming, sailing and beachcombing that was later expressed in beach trips and ocean cruises all over the world.

After graduating from Lorain High School, Ben attended Earlham College and then earned an MBA from Case Western Reserve University. He returned to Earlham to work as an administrator in the admissions and alumni relations departments. He moved his young family — wife Christine Mills Carlson and daughters Laura and Marianne — to Yellow Springs in 1969, when he was hired as personnel manager at Vernay Laboratories. He was senior vice president at the time he retired from Vernay in 1990. While at Vernay, Ben became interested in the work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, and he went on to be board chair of the Ohio Quality and Productivity Forum, which hosted annual seminars to study Deming’s ideas.

In Yellow Springs, Ben served as president of the boards of the Community Children’s Center, Yellow Springs Senior Citizens and the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. He was a member of the board of The Antioch Company and Creative Memories for 32 years. He volunteered hundreds of hours as a facilitator and teaching/learning process improvement instructor for schools and school districts in western Ohio and led numerous planning and improvement efforts with the Ohio Department of Education.

In 1990, Ben married Sandra Harshbarger. Ben and Sandy lived in Centerville, Ohio. In 2011, they moved to Jacksonville, where Ben volunteered regularly for the YMCA after-school reading program, Y-Reads, as a mentor/tutor for first- to third-graders, who called him “Mr. Ben.”

Ben had many interests and hobbies, including travel, photography, woodworking and gardening. He once built a balance beam for his daughters to practice on when the Olympic gymnasts captured their imagination in the 1970s, and, when they were grown, he built custom floor-to-ceiling bookcases for their homes. His children and grandchildren always received special birthday cards with a beautiful photograph he had taken. Every house he lived in had a colorful flower garden in front.

After his first heart bypass operation, he became a regular at cardiac rehab. Despite a second bypass surgery and an aortic aneurysm repair, he continued to exercise regularly to keep himself in shape, which, along with medication, extended his life by many years. Health challenges — prostate cancer, macular degeneration, a stroke — kept coming, but Ben took them in stride and joked about coping with what he called “my diminishments.”

As his heart condition began to limit his physical activity, his energy turned to intellectual pursuits. He spent hundreds of hours doing genealogical research and produced a 200-page Carlson family history. In addition to documenting his ancestors, he kept his living relatives in touch with each other three times a year with a family newsletter. As if getting 50 family members to contribute updates wasn’t hard enough, he also produced a biannual newsletter for about 100 Earlham classmates. He corresponded by email regularly with a small group of these classmates, the EC8, who shared their thoughts on life, death, faith, art, politics and many other topics. And he read and read and read.

Ben was preceded in death by a sister, Dr. Ann Carlson Brown; and his stepson, Craig Harshbarger. He will be missed and remembered by his wife, Sandra Brow Carlson, of Jacksonville; daughter, Laura Carlson (husband Tom Hawley), and grandchildren, Liam and Maya Creighton, of Yellow Springs; daughter, Marianne Germond (husband Jon Germond), and grandchildren, Melanie and Sophie Germond, of Portland, Ore.; stepson, Chris Harshbarger (wife Nicole Harshbarger), and grandchildren Joshua and Jordan Harshbarger, of Jacksonville; his sisters, Mary Catherine Carlson Wells, of Columbus, and Alice Carlson Mickey Hard, of Wellsboro, Pa.; three generations of nieces and nephews; and many, many friends and neighbors.

A celebration of Ben’s life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to One Tree Planted or another environmental organization of your choice.


5 Responses to “Benjamin Carlson”

  1. Lloyd Parsons says:

    I just discovered this. Ben and I grew up in the same neighborhood in Lorain, Ohio. At one time his family lived across the street from me and my family.

    Bens father was our family doctor go many years and we loved him and his family. As a child when I was ill he would come to our home to take care of me.

    Ben and his sisters and I all went to Lorain High School but after they graduated I never saw them again. E kept in touch with his mother Edna, as lived on in Lorain alone

    It’s too bad people are so scattered that we lose track of each other.

    My condolences to end family.

    Allen. Lloyd Parsons

  2. Harry Youtt says:

    I am saddened and so sorry that Ben is now lost to us all for the rest of our time here. He was my earliest major role model. We grew up in Lorain [I was six years behind him.] He became an Eagle Scout. Inspired by him, I followed in his footsteps. He went to Earlham College and then became an administrator there. I followed in those footsteps to spend my Freshman year there. Every Friday evening, he and Chris had me over to dinner. The memory of all this – endures. He was that kind of a guy. He has permanently touched my life.

  3. Harry Youtt says:

    I was so sorry to learn of Ben’s passing. I am six years his junior, and he was my early role model. We don’t get to do this often for people who are meaningful to us [even though we should], but I had a chance to tell him this directly. In 2007 I replied the following to a letter he’d written to me. These are the same sentiments I feel today:

    [July 7, 2007] Dear Ben,
    . . . I probably never said this to you (I’m pretty sure I didn’t) but you were a major role model for me during my so-called formative years. I literally followed in your footsteps in several significant ways.

    You became an Eagle Scout. I’m pretty sure I attended the ceremony. At least I
    remember the press clipping with your picture, that I kept for a long time. It was by your direct example that I decided to become an Eagle Scout myself – and did, several years later.

    My father was hoping I’d decide to attend his alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan University. I decided instead to attend Earlham, based on the fact that you had attended there and recently graduated. And (even though I only spent that freshman year there). . . the fact is, my strongest higher education influences all came from that first year at Earlham. . . . That year was pivotal. I have you to thank for all of that.

    And if I ever were to write a collection of poetry remembering my pivotal year at Earlham, prominent among the poems would be one that featured the young couple, Ben and Chris, who took me under their wings, gave me Friday evening meals and Lorain hospitality in their tiny wood-shingled house that I can still see in my mind’s eye, at the edge of the campus. I don’t remember exactly how many Friday evenings of this there actually were, but they were so significant I remember them as if they were every Friday evening during all the time I was there.

    So thank you, Ben, for everything.

  4. Donna Dugle Young says:

    I too was very sad to hear of Ben’s passing. I remember the first day he appeared in our third grade classroom at Longfellow Elementary School and how I proudly wore that black plastic “Scottie” pin he made for me in Junior High. We shared many years of Christmas letters, Genealogy research and all those class reunions in Lorain (the last being our 60th). Rest in peace my dear friend…you will be missed.

  5. Teresa McQueen says:

    I was sad to learn of Ben’s passing. What a nice tribute to his life this is. I was gifted with his annual Christmas letters and other correspondence over the years, including photos old and new. There is no doubt, he never seemed remotely “diminished” despite the physical challenges he faced. I send my condolences to his loved ones and certainly hope your fond memories of him lend healing and joy in the days and years ahead. I will certainly miss him.

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