Brad Benson, 45, of Bloomington, Illinois, passed from this world on Tuesday, August 23, 2016, at Advocate BroMenn Hospital in Bloomington, after a heroic four-year battle with metastatic colon cancer. Brad was born on June 10, 1971, in Peoria, IL, to Bob and Marian (Stump) Benson. He married Jenni Downing on August 9, 1991, at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Glasford, IL.
Surviving are his wife, Jenni; his twin sons:
of Bloomington; his dog, Loki; and his fish, June, also of Bloomington; his father, Robert (Sharon) Benson of Glasford; his mother, Marian (David) Bonikowske of Glasford; his sister, Carol (Shawn) O'Connor of Mapleton; three nephews, Braiden, Griffin and Ian O'Connor of Mapleton; his sister-in-law, Jodi (Arthur) Belt of Peoria; two nieces, Sophie and Maddie Belt of Peoria; his mother-in-law, Jackie Downing of Peoria; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins across America and Sweden.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Arthur and Lena (Behrends) Benson of Mapleton and Russell and Erma (Rigsbee) Stump; his father-in-law, John D. Downing of Fairview; his nephew, Nathan Belt of Peoria; and his aunt, Martha (Stump) Northrup of Mapleton.
Brad graduated from Illini Bluffs High School in Glasford, IL, in 1989, where he participated in basketball, cross country, track, scholastic bowl and general mischief that must have driven his teachers, the administration and bus drivers to the brink. Brad took a year off school before attending Illinois Central College, where he met his future wife. After their marriage in 1991, they transferred to Illinois State University, where Brad received his Bachelors of Science degree with honors in Socio-Cultural Anthropology in 1994. He began a graduate program at University of Chicago in 1995, but came back to the Peoria area a year later, where he formed his passion project, his band, Simon.
Brad was a talented musician, starting with piano lessons as a youth, and later playing trumpet in school band. But when he first held a guitar in his hand at the age of 11, his world was forever changed. A huge fan of The Beatles and the British invasion of the 1960s, Brad immersed himself in the world of music. He played his guitar constantly and began writing and singing songs in his teen years. Since founding Simon in 1996, Brad has written, arranged and recorded an EP, several singles and 3 full length albums. He had performed all over the state of Illinois, including the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago. If you were lucky enough to see him play, you immediately recognized he was a natural entertainer. His last album, "Belong," was written and recorded while Brad was going through some of his harshest cancer treatments, an amazing feat.
In 1998, Brad reluctantly joined the mainstream and was lucky enough to get a job at State Farm Insurance, where he worked until his death. Although the only qualification needed for the first position he held there was the ability to use email, Brad quickly worked his way up to becoming an Information Technology Security Analyst. He worked hard, accumulated many certifications, and became a trusted and well respected IT Compliance professional. He enthusiastically served as Vice President for his local ISACA chapter and helped create a scholarship for ISU students interested in joining his field.
Brad was known as a sharp-dressed man. He had a fabulous, flashy style that consisted of many hats and one-of-a-kind outfits. He was particularly known for his fancy footwear, which at times elevated his already 6'2" frame several inches. He could pull off a crushed velvet jacket and fedora like it was nobody's business. Brad was an amazing cook, he loved to garden, and he was a frequent presence at Four Seasons Health Club, where he loved to swim, run and lift weights. Brad was a gifted writer, who at the time of his death, had begun writing his memoires, focusing on what it was like growing up in a rural setting in the 1970s and 1980s. He kept a journal his entire life and was an avid reader.
Brad loved to travel with his wife and they visited Europe and Bermuda several times, including two trips to Sweden, where he connected with family found through genealogical research. He said it was one of the most important and meaningful things he was able to do.
Most of all, Brad loved his family and friends. He was a devoted father, serving on the PTO board of his sons' school, volunteering at their sporting events and hauling them all over town to have every opportunity to learn, grow and have fun. He was a devoted husband, making his wife and best friend laugh nearly every day of their 25-year marriage. Brad almost never stopped talking, was a fabulous raconteur and entertainer and was genuinely funny. He had more friends than you can shake a stick at and loved every one of them.
Brad was a member of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Normal, IL, and of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Glasford, IL. He also studied Buddhism his entire adult life, which resulted in one of his nicknames, Zen Brad. Brad practiced Transcendental Meditation for the last year of his life, which significantly aided him during his almost constant cancer treatment.
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