Benjamin H. Radcliffe (Ben)
1933, Company Unknown
Not much has been found about Ben Radcliffe's time in the Civilian Conservation Corps just that he, like many thousands in South Dakota during the Great Depression, found a much needed job. It's unknown just how much influence that had on him but like so many that shared the experience of the CCC, Ben made a success of his life.
Some of his credits include: South Dakota State Representative: 1954-1962, President of South Dakota Farmers Union: 1961-1981, Chairman of National Farmers Union Executive Board: 1972-1978, President of South Dakota Association of Senior Centers: 1987-1989, Inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame: 1997, Inducted into South Dakota Co-op Hall of Fame: 1997, President Emeritus of South Dakota Farmers Union: 1981 for life, Gold miner: 1938-1942, Farmer: always.
Ben wrote a book at the urging of his family to leave a record of the way it was and the way it has become. "AND THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS - The secret of life is to hang around until you get used to it" by Ben H. Radcliffe.
Benjamin H. "Ben" Radcliffe, age 98, of Huron, died Tuesday, May 13, 2014, at the Huron Regional Medical Center. His funeral service was at 10 AM, Friday, May 16th, at the First United Methodist Church with the Rev. Mark Holland, officiating. Private burial will be in the Tulare Cemetery. The family prefers memorials.
Benjamin H. Radcliffe was born December 21, 1915, to Oliver N. and Emma (Olson) Radcliffe at Wolsey. He attended Sand Creek Elementary School at Wessington. He came of age during the worst years of the Great Depression and by the time he graduated from Tulare High School in 1933, literally thousands of South Dakota farms and ranches had been foreclosed.
He joined the newly established Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933 and earned badly needed dollars doing building projects on public lands in the Black Hills and Arkansas.
In 1935, Ben married Dorothy Simons and the couple headed for California. After a couple of years work as a farmhand, he began a new career as a foreman at the Governor Gold Mine near Lancaster, California.
Life in the mines came to a sudden end when the gold market collapsed shortly after the United States' entry into World War II. Ben, Dorothy, and their four year old daughter Dona returned to South Dakota, where they purchased a family farm in Spink County near Tulare. Two more daughters, Barbara and Linda, were born there.
Because farming was considered an essential occupation, Ben was deferred from service in WWII. At about that time, he began his long association with the Farmers Union. Late in 1944, organizers for the family farm and ranch organization made a stop at the Radcliffe farm, and before long, Ben was president of the Crandon Local and the Spink County Farmers Union. When a new Farmers Union district was carved from the counties of north central South Dakota in 1955, Ben was selected to serve as its first president and representative on the South Dakota Farmers Union board of directors.
In 1954, a young Democratic Party chairman, George McGovern, persuaded him to run for the South Dakota House of Representatives. Ben was one of the few Democrats elected that fall, and when he arrived in Pierre he found that his caucus could almost literally meet in a phone booth.
Ben was also active in other roles in government. He served as a local committeeman for the USDA Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) and as a member of the Crandon Township Rural School board in 1948 and 1949. He served as president of the Redfield Farmers Union Federal Credit Union from 1956 to 1960 and as a director of the Spink County Electric Cooperative from 1957 until 1961. He was a member of the Spink County Crop Improvement Association from 1945 until 1960. Ben served as president of the South Dakota Farmers Union for 20 years until 1981. Ben also served on the National Farmers Union Executive Committee for 20 years and was a delegate to conferences of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers in Paris, France; Helsinki, Finland; Washington, DC; Wellington, New Zealand and Buenos Aires, Argentina. When he retired at the 1981 state convention, he was presented with a framed proclamation by Governor William Janklow declaring October 26, 1981, to be Ben Radcliffe Day in South Dakota.
Ben became the second recipient of the South Dakota Farmers Union's Meritorious Service Award. The following year he was presented with the National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award and the East River Electric Cooperative Eminent Service Award. Additional awards have included the South Dakota Senior Citizens Man of the Year award in 1989, the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award in 1990, membership in the South Dakota Co-op Hall of Fame in 1997, and he was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2012, Ben was awarded the South Dakota Democratic Party Goldie Wells Lifetime Achievement award.
Ben's early retirement years were clouded by the illness and death of his wife, Dorothy in 1987. Later he married Del Foglesong on March 5, 1988, at Huron.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife, Dorothy in 1987; his second wife, Del in 2013; one daughter, Linda Stephens in 2011; two brothers, Amos Radcliffe and Max Radcliffe; and two sisters, Vera Price and Ruth MacNeil.
Grateful for having shared in his life are his two daughters, Dona and Wayne Hansen of Mt. Vernon and Barbara Blaedorn and Roy Carlson of Huron; one son-in-law, Floyd (Ole) Stephens; three step-daughters, Lynne Schultz of Tulare, Crystal and Anthony Benning of Madison, and Rosemary and Mel Wieting of Minneapolis; one step-son, Alan and Lynn Foglesong of Houston, Texas; six grandchildren, Craig (Bonny) Hansen, Debora (Jeff) Dragseth, Richel Henkel, Neal (Kendra Brown and son Dominick) Blaedorn, Mark (Tracy) Stephens, and Kari Peterman; thirteen great-grandchildren, Robert (Alyson) Hansen and their daughter Carlee, Kelsey Hansen, Eric (Mandy) Dragseth, Mike (Angela) Dragseth, Chloe Dragseth, Kelly Henkel, Andrew Henkel, Benjamin Blaedorn, Malle Stephens, Kylie Stephens, Amber Peterman and daughter Kinley, Ryan Peterman, and Lane Peterman; and one brother, William Radcliffe of Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
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