I had the privilege of meeting Gerald Bentz back in the 70’s when my parents started attending his church in Federal Way. Our families connected and became great friends. It was an honor to reconnect with him when he moved to Wenatchee after his wife passed away 18 months ago. His son became his caretaker- and what a great example of "honoring thy mother/father" he displayed as well. Gerald faithfully attended our church with his big smile and love for the Lord that radiated. Gerald was a WWII MIA-POW who was wounded and captured in France and spent the last several months of the war in the POW camp in Munich, Germany. This week he passed away peacefully in his sleep with his family near his side. What an example he was, what Joy he must be having in Heaven and what a big Void he leaves down here with his passing. Today I felt best to share this video from the Gaithers- “What A Day That Will Be”- Maybe this song minister to you as well- It is from the Gaither Homecoming Videos. "
DEATH~ WHAT A WONDERFUL WAY TO EXPLAIN IT.
A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to Leave the examination room and said, 'Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.' Very quietly, the doctor said, 'I don't know.' 'You don't know? You're a Christian man, and don't know what's on the other side?' The doctor was holding the handle of the door; On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, And as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room And leaped on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, 'Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, But I do know one thing... I know my Master is there and that is enough.
Gerald’s dad John lost his farm as a result of the Great Depression and moved the family to the Yakima Valley in 1939 when Gerald was 15 with the promise of employment in agriculture. Gerald worked summers changing sprinklers for the Central Washington State Fair as a young teen and then worked for the Valley Evaporator and later Yakima Cement and one of the local fuel oil companies doing home deliveries in Yakima.
The US Army drafted Gerald in 1942 and he became part of the 12th Armored Infantry Battalion. He spent the first couple active duty years in the military-police, eventually guarding POW German officers as they were moved by train from New York harbor to Texas and then guarding at the POW camp there. In October of 1944 Gerald was back at NY Harbor but this time being deployed to the front lines in Strasbourg, France. While fighting on the front lines his company commander misread a map resulting in an ambush of most of Gerald’s platoon. Gerald was wounded while the majority of his comrades were killed. He was captured and transported by the Nazis to the POW camp in Munich, Germany where he finished out the remaining several months of the war. Because of Gerald’s German heritage and the fact that German was often spoken in the Bentz home, he became the interpreter for all of the English-speaking prison allies in the POW camp in Munich.
Gerald’s family in Colorado and Yakima had been informed that he was missing in action but his parents didn’t receive word that he was alive until he walked through their front door in Yakima after being liberated and returning from Europe. Gerald said it was a great time of celebration and rejoicing with his family upon his return.
Upon Gerald’s discharge from the Army he found that his church in Yakima had new pastors who had a beautiful single daughter, Martha May Galbraith. He and Martha dated for a couple years then married in December of 1947. The first 3 children born to Gerald and Martha were born in Yakima between 1949 and 1953. In 1954 Gerald received a job offer from Roy Miller to work for Miller Oil Company in Federal Way, WA, which he accepted. After settling in Federal Way the second 3 children were born in Auburn between 1958 and 1962. Gerald worked for Miller Oil and later McCall Oil Co. retiring in 1986 at which time he and Martha moved back to the Yakima Valley.
All of Gerald’s 6 children adored him as a wonderful father. As a grandfather Gerald had an amazing way of making each of his grandkids feel like they were just as important to him as the others. Some cherished memories we have of dad/grandpa is hearing his wartime experiences, riding in his big oil truck, hearing him play his harmonica, watching him tap-dancing his famous little "jig," hearing him pray over a meal in German, and the kids vying to be the "first one" to kiss daddy when he got home from work. Hearing our dad and mom ask one another for forgiveness often is a cherished memory. Dad and mom credited their 63 year long marriage to "never going to bed angry but always asking for forgiveness." Forever cherished is seeing dad care for mom until the last few months of her life even though she had Alzheimer’s. Another cherished memory of dad is his unfailing, departing salutation by saying to everyone, "Lord be with you until we meet again!"
Gerald was preceded in death by his parents, numerous brothers, sisters and relatives, one daughter Carol Bentz-Milan on September 27, 1994 and his wife Martha May Galbraith-Bentz on April 17, 2011. Gerald is survived by one sister, Hellen Nelson of Yakima, 5 children, Lonnie Bentz of Hermiston, OR, Janice Norman of Yakima, WA, Geralyn Davis of Juneau, AK, Tim Bentz of Wenatchee, WA and LaDonna Hasty of Lincoln, CA as well as 17 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.
Gerald moved to Wenatchee in May of 2011 to be with family following a stroke.
The rest of the family would like to recognize Gerald’s grandson Jason Brewer for his unfailing love and dedication to his grandpa, as evidenced when he stayed nearly every night in the Wenatchee hospital with him the last couple weeks of Gerald’s life so grandpa would "never be alone."
Visitation will be offered 12:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M. on Sunday, October, 21, 2012 at Keith and Keith Funeral Home, 902 W. Yakima Avenue. Graveside services are scheduled for 9:30 A.M. on Monday, October 22, 2012 at West Hills Memorial Park at 11800 Douglas Rd. in Yakima and will be held prior to the regular funeral due to scheduling conflicts with the cemetery. Regular funeral services will follow at 11:00 A.M. at Keith and Keith Funeral Chapel at 902 W. Yakima Avenue in Yakima, WA.