Brad Benson, a long-time Sunshine Coast resident and noted environmentalist, died July 29 in Sechelt at the age of 78. His friend Jim Christy pays tribute.
Brad Benson, my good pal and close travelling companion, died the other day. His death came as no surprise to close friends who knew he had been ill and in and out of hospital for several months.
What shocked me rather was the manner of his passing. It was peaceful, and as his son Scott put it, “He just stopped breathing.”
I would have expected to hear something far different and much more dramatic. That he’d driven off a cliff at 170 kilometres an hour, for instance, or that he’d been shot at some godforsaken border crossing in a country most people wouldn’t dare visit, or maybe he was lynched in the forest at a logging protest.
Brad and I put in a lot of miles together, and he was the ideal guy to knock around with, for me anyway, because he had no interest in sightseeing or meeting fashionable people. He loved animals and never failed to greet any dog we came upon.
And he was up for anything. I once told him I’d heard a rumour of an ancient ceiba tree worshipped by people in a certain remote area of Guatemala. “They make offerings of giant cigarettes. Only thing is they all have machetes and are not averse to using them on gringos.”
Brad’s response was, “When do we leave?”
But forget about angry locals, wherever local happened to be, Brad was usually enough trouble on his own. He had a heightened sense of Rights and Justice which didn’t always fit in with local notions.
Brad was particularly fond of snapping photographs of official government installations, usually of a military nature, where there were signs warning, “No Photographs.” Some of these signs emphasized their message with painted skulls and crossbones.
Along with Gibsons actor Paul Murphy, we once shared a house in Mexico for several months. Brad later said these were the happiest months of his life. We all got along and Brad made many Mexican friends.
We went to Vietnam twice and once road buses from the bottom of the country north to Hanoi.
Visiting his various hospital rooms in recent months sometimes required you to wait outside for a chance to see him.
It is almost impossible to recall that his recent medical trouble began just eight months ago while the two of us were in Cuba. He was weak and I got him to the hospital.
One of my best memories of him is, alas, connected with a hospital visit. Nick Caputo appeared at his room but he wasn’t in it. We found the nurses were all in a tizzy. “Mr. Benson has taken off,” they said.
Soon there was a call from one of the banks. They had “Mr. Benson” there. He was in his pajamas and robe and had just withdrawn money.
By the time Nick and I got outside, Brad, in the company of two attendants, one on each side of his walker, was just coming into the parking lot. I asked him where he was going with his money. Without batting an eye, he said, “I figured I’d find a car and go down to Mexico. You game?”