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Memorable Manitobans: Robert John “Bobby” Benson (1894-1965)

Athlete, coach.

Born at Davidson, Saskatchewan on 18 May 1894, son of Hans Benedict Johnson (1853-1921) and Rosa Gudmundsdottir Johnson (1850-1923), and brother of H. T. W. Benson. Around the age of three, he moved with his family to Winnipeg, residing at 530 Toronto Street and later working as a shipper. He married Cassie Gillespie (1892-1942) on 2 July 1913 at Winnipeg, and had two children: Evelyn Benson (c1913-?) and Lorne Robert Benson (1913-1981). Following the death of his first wife, he married again, on 29 June 1944 to widow Gudny Rose Dennison “Jean” Powell (1892-1972) and gained a step-daughter: Loverna Rose Powell (wife of Cecil Francis Goldhawk).

He played hockey with the Winnipeg Strathconas starting with the 1910-1911 season and continued with the club prior to joining the Winnipeg Falcons for the 1913-1914 season, where he would continue with through the 1915-1916 season. He enlisted in the 223rd Overseas Battalion in March 1916 and played hockey within the 223rd Battalion in the Military League before deployment to Europe with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and reassignment to the 27th Battalion. He saw combat, attained the rank of Lance Corporal, received a shrapnel wound to his knee in October 1918, and convalesced at No. 7 Canadian General Hospital at Letreport, France.

Returning from Europe, he re-united with his brother and friends, re-forming the Winnipeg Falcons for the 1919-1920 season. He skated with the club to victory against the University of Toronto, securing the 1920 Allan Cup and yielding the opportunity to play as Canada’s team in the 1920 Olympic Games at Antwerp, Belguim, where they won gold in convincing fashion. The success and exposure from their Olympic victory afforded him the opportunity to turn professional, which he did the following season with the Saskatoon Crescents (1920-1921) before joining the Calgary Tigers (1921-1922 through 1923-1924), when he was traded to Montreal Maroons, and in the same day, again traded again from Montreal to Boston. He played briefly in the NHL for the Boston Bruins during the 1924-1925 season. He spent the 1925-1926 season playing for the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatoon Sheiks, before heading to the Moose Jaw Warriors (1926-1927), landing with the Minneapolis Millers for the 1927-1928 and subsequent season. During the 1929-1930 and 1930-1931 seasons, he played for the Seattle Eskimos, after which he skated for the Hollywood Stars for the 1931-1932 season. He retired from competitive athletics after that season and returned to Winnipeg.

Having stepped back from the ice, he remained active in the sports scene, and was Winnipeg Parks Sports Director (1933). He went in to coach the Brandon Junior Native Sons hockey team (1932-1933), Portage la Prairie Junior Terriers hockey team (1938-1939), Kenora Thistles (1939-1940), and Winnipeg Falcons (1940-1942). He worked as a carpenter, and later, as a clerk for the Timothy Eaton Company (c1942) until retirement around 1960. In addition to hockey, he also played baseball in the Senior League of the Winnipeg Amateur Baseball Association (1915) and in the Battalion League (1916). Over the years, he lived at 475 Toronto Street, 570 Beverly Street, 311 Langside Street, 473 Home Street, and 35 Harmon Avenue and was a member of Icelandic Canadian Club.

He died at Deer Lodge Hospital on 7 September 1965 and was buried in Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens.

Sources:

Birth, marriage, and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1916 Canada census, Library and Archives of Canada.

1921 Canada census, Ancestry.

Attestation papers, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives of Canada.

“Arenas nose out Falcons in finals,” Manitoba Free Press, 8 July 1915, page 11.

“Battalion baseball opener won by 101st,” Manitoba Free Press, 8 May 1916, page 6.

“Falcon boy wounded,” Manitoba Free Press, 21 October 1918, page 10.

“Man fatally crushed father of hockeyists,” Manitoba Free Press, 7 January 1921, page 5.

Obituary [Rosa Johnson], Manitoba Free Press, 8 February 1923, page 5.

“Still going strong,” Manitoba Free Press, 28 October 1930, page 6.

“Riding Mountain Park Soccerites,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 August 1933, page 15.

“Bobby Benson will handle Portage club in game here tonight,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 January 1938, page 16.

“North Division has a natural tonight,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 December 1941, page 16.

Obituary [Cassie Benson], Winnipeg Free Press, 8 June 1942, page 5.

“Benson-Powell,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 July 1944, page 8.

“Loverna Powell becomes bride of C. F. Goldhawk,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 September 1949, page 10.

“Time out with Maurice Smith,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1950 April 13, page 22.

Obituary [Ann Beebe], Winnipeg Free Press, 5 February 1965, page 25.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 8 September 1965, page 40.

“Time out with Maurice Smith,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 September 1965, page 49.

Obituary [Gudny Rose Benson], Winnipeg Free Press, 16 December 1972, page 35.

Obituary [Lorne Robert Benson], Winnipeg Free Press, 27 August 1981, page 35.

Players: The Ultimate A-Z Guide of Everyone Who Has Ever Played in the NHL by Andrew Podnieks, 2003.

When Falcons Fly by David Square, 2007.

Bobby Benson, HockeyDB.com

Henderson’s Winnipeg Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.

Byron and Doughty family tree, Ancestry

Bobby John Benson, LegendsOfHockey.net

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 15 May 2014

Memorable Manitobans

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