Celebrating the legacy of Ben Steele - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Celebrating the legacy of Ben Steele

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Ben Steele at his 98th birthday celebration. Ben Steele at his 98th birthday celebration.
BILLINGS, Mont. -

Governor Steve Bullock ordered flags to fly at half-staff Tuesday as our community continues to mourn the loss of beloved war hero Ben Steele. The POW and Bataan Death March survivor passed away September 25 after a long and celebrated life. He was 98 years old.

Tuesday at his celebration of life ceremony, tears were shed and heartfelt goodbyes were said to an American legend. Hundreds gathered at Montana Pavilion to pay their respects to World War II veteran Ben Steele.

Family members, veterans and others in the community saluted Ben Steele for remaining brave during his time as a POW during the Bataan Death March.

Ben was a man who remained creative, even while facing death. When he returned to Billings, he took his artistic craft to Eastern Montana College and shared it with his students. Loved ones say his students are the ones who actually taught him.

Related Story: Ben made everybody feel like they could draw: Former student, Jacque Kittson, remembers Ben Steele

He had a Japanese art student, with whom he was uneasy about at first, after nearly dying in the Bataan Death March. But, according to Ben's family and friends, Steele's student, Harry Koyama taught him to hate less and see the good in others.

"It's been a struggle watching him, kinda going into his final years, but it's just been a real honor to have known the man, to know that I've paid a part in his life," Koyama said.

Ben and Harry go back nearly 50 years.

Tuesday afternoon loved ones shared their memories of much-loved and respected Ben Steele. Everyone who walked on stage said he had quite the sense of humor and was an extraordinary person.

"I love you and thanks for being such a wonderful father. I'll miss our camping trips, and our fishing trips and sleeping in the tent," Ben's daughter, Rosemary Steele said.

Ben certainly has left an everlasting impression on so many people and will continue to do so through his legacy.

"We will be able to talk about Ben Steele in the future of being someone who blazed a trail, not just in education and art, but also into people's lives in this community," Bill Kennedy said.

"l'd of lived forever because he lived so many years and triumphed over a lot of difficult times, and I think God had a plan in all of that to make sure Ben would of survived," Cliff Potts.

Related Story: Communities across Montana remember WWII POW survivor, Ben Steele

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