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Benjamin Whitener (1977 – 2012)


Below is the obituary published in today’s Contra Costa Times followed by the Celebration of Life to be held this Saturday. I’ve also included some comments and my thoughts about Mr. Whitener which I feel like we had a friendship end before its time.

Benjamin Whitener

March 4, 1977 – December 30, 2012
Resident of Brentwood
Ben passed away suddenly at the age of 35, survived by his wife Tish, daughters Ella Catherine, parents Jack and RaeBerta Whitener, sisters Jacy and Tawny.
Memorial Service will be held at Golden Hills Community Church, Brentwood at 2pm. Donations can be made to The Ben Whitener Family Fund c/o Bank of the West.

Celebration of Life

Saturday, January 05, 2013
Golden Hills Community Church
2401 Shady Willow Lane
Brentwood, California


Thoughts on Ben Whitener

Plain and simple, the community lost a wonderful man.  I will not pretend like I knew Ben Whitener as well as many others in the community did, but over the past year we formed a beautiful friendship out of idealistic beliefs, trust, admiration, and a love of trying to improve the community for the better.

As I set out to write something beautiful about him over the last few days, I’ve drawn a blank.  Not because I couldn’t think of what to write, but because I did not know where I should start. But I will give it a try.

He loved his family. My last memory of him was standing in the same line with our families to see Santa. It was purely random but we were able to talk for a few minutes and I’ll never forget his laugh from that day and the joy in him while his girls waited in line. I made a crack about “What idiot stands in line a few days before Christmas to see Santa?” He shot back with, “Well you are the other idiot with me”. It was a “had to be there” moment, but it’s a nice memory as we wished each other well and were preparing for future battles together on behalf of the fire district and the community.

He loved his fire district and would often tell me how much he missed working with his fellow firefighters.  He loved those guys and he loved protecting the community and comforting folks during their worst. He wanted to help be a voice on their behalf since he could no longer join them on calls. He was a strong advocate of three-man crews at the very worst while he advocated on behalf of the entire district to be covered fairly without favorites being played to one community vs. another. He loved to share the history of the District about how it used to be, where its at now, and where it could be headed if it was just given some community support. He was very positive about the District and would always stop to educate folks who had questions. In a way, teaching allowed him to continue doing what he loved without the physical demands.

He loved teaching and would often express to me his ideas of how he can create a better experience for fire science and reach the next generation of fire firefighters and emergency personnel. He was always excited about his demonstrations and teachings to his students.  His loss will be a huge void for the three schools and the program as he was very gifted in reaching students.

And then there was the political conversations where we would not always agree on how to get to a place, but we would agree on what that end place needed to be.  He loved his community and wanted it to be improved for everybody. He was very selfless in this aspect and he would have been a damn good Brentwood City Council member because that is where he was headed in a few years. He would have been good at that because it was never about him, rather he was always was a “community first” kind of guy.  He is the type of leader that is needed in today’s political realm.  You knew where he stood and you had better come prepared to defend your position because he was one of the most prepared people I knew with facts and figures. He appreciated a great debate.  More than a debate, he wanted to fight the good fight for all the right reasons and I appreciate that. That is probably why we got along so well in such a short period of time.

He was a giver, not a taker. He was a man that everyone could look up to (not because he was tall) because that is just who he was.  He made you want to be a better person, he made you want to try that much harder. He wanted others to succeed and would help anyway he could to ensure success.

I am forever grateful in getting to know him and learn from him. He was just a few years older than me, but consider him a mentor in not only fire education, but in wanting to become better. He was an asset to the community much greater than I could ever put in words.

Ben Whitener will forever have a life changing impact on my life and I am thankful for getting the opportunity to know him and am proud to consider him my dear friend.

Please Donate

In lieu of flowers please forward all gifts/ donations to the “Ben Whitener Family Fund” – Bank of the West (BOW) (Home account is at the Oakley BOW any BOW will accept donations).


Tagged as:

Categorised in: Brentwood, ECCFPD, Firefighters

6 Responses »

  1. That was a beautiful tribute Mike. “Ben Whitener will forever have a life changing impact on my life and I am thankful for getting the opportunity to know him and am proud to consider him my dear friend.” This line about sums up the impact he had on so many of our lives. In such a short time, he achieved so much, touched so many lives and has helped so many reach their dreams. I will miss him… so much!

  2. Sounds like a real stand up guy. Wish I’d of had the honor of meeting him.

  3. I did not know Ben or his family. He sounds like a wonderful man, husband and father. My heart and prayers go out to his family.

  4. I had the pleasure of meeting Ben about 8 months ago during the Measure S campaign. We had a great sit down discussion between 3 of us that ran close to 4 hours, as I recall, discussing the enormity of the issue.

    Ben was a big guy, but I quickly learned had real gentle giant qualities. There we were discussing a heavy political issue with 3rd person who adamantly held the opposing viewpoint. During the impromptu “debate” there were points where I certainly got animated, while Ben was just calm and cool. He knew the issue and he knew the history, largely because he had lived it.

    Called himself “tule rat” from his days on Bethel Island. Had some great stories from his days in the fire department. Some quite heroic. There’s a roadside memorial I pass by almost every day. I found out that Ben was one of the first responders to what must have been the horrific scene that prompted it.

    At the end of a long discussion that didn’t change any minds that were at the table, I walked away with great respect for him. Because I could see in him a man who had a career cut short by injury, but the passion for the profession was still there. Ben became a professional fire fighter for all the right reasons. That much was obvious.

    We would occasionally cross paths at fire board meetings. Then a couple of months ago shared pizza one night to talk about his campaign for a spot on the fire board representing Brentwood. I said then and still believe, Ben would have been an ideal representative because of that passion and his pragmatic way of tackling the big problems facing the district.

    Through Facebook I could see Ben was loved and highly respected among his family/friends and admired by the high school students that he taught. He seemed to have that sort of personality that could win most anyone over with his patience, ability to listen and a sincere interest in befriending other people.

    I’m sure he touched many in his path in life and the service to his community that he clearly enjoyed. No doubt he leaves a big void in many ways.

    Hate to see such a young guy go before it should be his time. Maybe heaven was a little short on heroes this week and needed to call one home early.

    May his wife and family find comfort in knowing that he’s smiling down upon you all.

  5. he was my teacher, in Highschool.. The best teacher there was.

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