Linnea Magdalena (Griess) Benke, 94, of Kendallwood Hills Estates in Kansas City, MO, died Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at Liberty Hospital in Liberty, Missouri.
Linnea was born at 11:30 PM on December 9, 1917 to John M. Griess and Ida Irene (Nuss) on their family farm north of Sutton, Nebraska weighing in at 8 pounds. It was an extremely cold winter night, which set the coldest temperature on record for that date. So right from her first breath of air she began to develop her tenacity for life.
Linnea went to Clay County Nebraska Country School #66 and earned an Eighth Grade Diploma on May 23, 1931. She led the school bus consisting of a horse drawn buggy and the children brought food to eat in a bucket, commonly known today as a lunch pail. Linnea was always proud that she earned a perfect score of 100 in mental arithmetic in the eighth grade. Against her desires, she reluctantly left school to work for her parent's farm and as a housekeeper for people in the town of Sutton. Once she got the opportunity, she went back to school and graduated from the National Business Institute in Lincoln Nebraska with a Diploma in Business Machines on May 19, 1944 and proceeded to work as a bookkeeper for an insurance company in Lincoln. Linnea always missed not going to high school, so she continued her education and earned her Adult High School Diploma, graduating June 1, 1954. While in Lincoln, Linnea took oil painting classes as a hobby and painted some very some beautiful landscapes.
Linnea met her husband, Reuben Paul Benke, Captain in the United States Air Force, at a USO Dance in Lincoln, Nebraska. They were married in Lincoln on June 9, 1955. When their first child Kristi Lynn was born, Reuben was overseas serving in the Korean War. Linnea would tell the story of how she didn't want to buy a crib until he returned, so she made a bed for Kristi in one of the drawers from their bedroom dresser. Having been a teenager living in the heartland of America during the Great Depression, she practiced recycling and sustainable methods long before Webster's dictionary printed definition for these terms.
When Reuben returned from overseas and separated from the Air Force, the new family relocated to southern California where her husband attended school to become a jet engine specialist at the Northrop Aeronautical Institute. That is where the family expanded with the birth of two more children Patti Renee and Russell Pace. The completed family eventually settled down in Kansas City, Missouri in 1964 when Ruben was hired by Trans World Airlines (TWA) as a mechanic. Linnea continued working as a part-time Avon sales lady where she made many life long friends and gave away more value providing quality conversation than she actually earned by selling makeup. Linnea remained a very devoted wife to Reuben after he became disabled due to a stroke in 1974. She drove to visit and take him home-cooked dinner at his nursing home virtually every day for 12 years until his death in 1986.
Through Linnea's career as a homemaker she earned the reputation of making her famous German Potato Salad. She was a fantastic cook always making more than enough to send extras home with her family. Linnea was passionate about watching her son Russell play Little League baseball and never missed a game, many times to the chagrin of Kristi and Patti who were always dragged along. Linnea supported her daughters' Girl Scouts activities serving as the troop leader and always cooked for all the girls during camp outs. All the scouts always wanted her as the adult in their tent because she allowed the girls to stay up late and talk. Later, through her persistence, she convinced her adult son Russell to wear her perfectly sized Girl Scouts leader uniform during Halloween so that he could sell thin mints cookies to all the trick-or-treaters. It was such a hit for Russell that he looked forward to Halloween cookie sales each year.
Linnea absolutely loved plants and flowers, and one of her greatest joys was spending countless hours tending to the flowers in her yard. Linnea was always digging up and sharing her flowers with family and friends, so her legacy is living on in many yards around the area.
Linnea was a member of Faubion United Methodist Church, and she enjoyed getting together with their group of quilters once a week. She also enjoyed quilting on her own and made sure that each granddaughter received one of her beautiful personalized baby quilts. Linnea also enjoyed crocheting, embroidery, and was an avid seamstress.
Linnea liked to watch some television, including Royals baseball games and KU basketball games, always tuning-in the local news to check tomorrows weather forecast. But what she really enjoyed was reading and she shared this love of reading with young children by volunteering for Youth Friends at elementary schools.
Linnea enjoyed travelling all around the United States, Germany, and several visits to her daughter Kristi's family in France. She recently began enjoying creating hand-beaded necklaces. Many family members and friends will always cherish these beautiful necklaces and will remember Linnea fondly every time they wear them.
Linnea was a fighter and in recent years persevered through a hiatal hernia, broken shoulder, two broken hips, high blood pressure, gallbladder surgery, breast cancer, and fractured back discs. Through all of these things, she lived independently, kept active, and people just could not believe how old she was. Her mind was still sharp and she often stated that she would rather be able to watch her body deteriorate than to lose control of her mind. That is one reason why she couldn't understand why her immune system just wouldn't kick in and fight off the infection that had invaded her lungs and eventually lead to her last breath of air when she lost her battle with pneumonia.
Those who remain to carry on Linnea's legacy are her children, Kristi Lynn Gerin of Strasbourg, France; Patti Renee Nierman and husband Steve Nierman of Liberty, Missouri; and Russell Pace Benke and wife LisaMarie Benke of Lawrence, Kansas; six granddaughters, Laurianne Kelly Gerin, Stephanie Renee Gerin, Colette Grace Gerin, Linnea Marjorie Nierman, Valerie Renee Nierman, and Rubie Paulette Benke. She is also survived by siblings Walter Christian Griess of Cincinnati, Ohio, Talitha Angusta Wach of Sutton, Nebraska, and Sedonia Irene Trautman of Sutton, Nebraska.
She is preceded in death by her husband Reuben Paul Benke, son-in-law Norbert Jean-Baptiste Gerin, two brothers Oscar John Griess and Rudolph Henry Griess, two infant brothers Robert and Ivan Griess, and three sisters Annette Ida Rosberg, Neoma Christine Helger, and Heather Marie Fitzgerald.
We will miss Linnea greatly and her soul will live forever in those of us fortunate enough to have received her genes.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to Linnea's favorite charity, the Disabled American Veterans, to help support the forgotten men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Donations may be made at www.dav.org/donate/Default.aspx or mailed to P.O. Box 14301, Cincinnati, OH 45250. Online condolences and memories may be shared at www.mcgilleyantiochchapel.com