PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (Formerly Warren, Ohio) – Henry Michael Beben, 95, passed away on Tuesday, April 25, in hospice care at the Heinz VA Center in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania.
He was born September 1, 1921 in Albert, West Virginia.
Henry and his family moved to Warren, Ohio, where he would reside for over 80 years.
In 1942, Henry joined the Army Air Force and served as a top turret gunner in the 303rd Bombardment Group, known as the original “Hell’s Angels”, stationed at Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, England. On January 11, 1944, Staff Sergeant Henry Beben and his B17 crew flew in the First Division attack, without fighter cover because of bad weather, on an aircraft factory in Oschersleben, Germany. The First Division engaged enemy aircraft over 400 times while flying through constant flak from antiaircraft fire, successfully reaching the target and inflicting significant damage, however, in that single raid 42 heavy bombers were lost. Over 430 airmen failed to return to Molesworth: Henry and his crew were among them. The enemy fire that destroyed Henry’s B17 immediately killed the captain and co-pilot. The rest of the crew parachuted into enemy territory and were taken by the Nazi’s as prisoners of war. Henry spent the next 16 months as a POW in Stalag XVII-B, in Krems, Austria.
After the war, Henry worked as a postman in Warren.
During this time, he met the love of his life, Rose David Beben. Married in 1960, they had an only child, their daughter, Marsha Beben Tobias.
Later, Henry and Rose started Busy Bee Printing on Griswold Avenue, where Henry (assisted by his wife and daughter) produced church cookbooks, stationery and wedding imprints.
Henry was foremost a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He was active in the Ohio Chapter of the American Ex-POW association, along with his memberships in the VFW and the DAV. He generously participated in the Holy Cross Polish National Church and the St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Warren, where he worked unfailingly at the weekly ethnic dinners on Thursdays.
In his later years, Henry moved to Pittsburgh to be with his daughter, Marsha and his son-in-law, Fr. Jonathan Tobias. Eventually, he entered the Heinz VA long term care facility in Aspinwall. To the end, Henry remained constant in his dedication to his Christian faith and to his family. His sense of humor never dimmed and he sang Polish hymns and lullabies in his childhood language. This despite the fact that memories of the war, the disaster of January 11, 1944 and his captivity in Stalag XVII-B never left him. On the first day in Paradise, for Henry, the war was finally over.
Surviving him are his daughter, Marsha Beben (Fr. Jonathan) Tobias, his granddaughters, Marisa Tobias (spouse Zachary) Vaskalis and Alexis Tobias (fiancé Jared Jacavone) and his great-granddaughter, Evelina Vaskalis.
Preceding him in death are his wife, Rose David Beben; his mother and stepfather, Catherine and John Smedi; his sisters, Viola Beben Subjeck and Phyllis Beben Gentry and his brothers, Walter Binben, Victor Binben and John Smedi.
Friends are welcome at the Peter Rossi and Son Memorial Chapel at 1884 North Road NE, Warren Ohio on Friday, April 28 from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. A Parastas will be served at 7:30 p.m.
The Orthodox Funeral Service will be on Saturday, April 29 at 10:00 a.m. at the St Nicholas Orthodox Church. The celebrant will be the Very Rev Protopresbyter Kenneth Bachofsky, assisted by Henry’s son-in-law, the Very Reverend Jonathan Tobias.
Henry will be laid to rest with military honors at the Pineview Memorial Park cemetery.
Family and friends may visit www.peterrossiandsonfh.com to view this obituary, sign the guest book and send condolences to the Beben family.
A television tribute will air April 28 at the following approximate times:
6:41 a.m. WYTV and 8:41 a.m. MyYTV and 9:58 a.m. on FOX plus two additional spots throughout the day.