Bennett “Benny” Lee Sawtelle. Our wonderful blue-eyed best friend left this world on April 23, 2022, but will never leave our hearts. Anyone lucky enough to know Benny agrees that he embodies Family, Friends, Fun-loving, and Generosity. The man, the legend, the chili.
Benny was born in Hanford, CA, on November 17, 1939 to Jean and Merval Sawtelle but grew up in Corcoran, CA, alongside his brother Phil and sisters Sandra and Julie. His love of music started early in life, and he excelled when he played trombone in the Air Force band, enlisting in 1957 after graduating from Corcoran High School. Returning to Corcoran in 1962, he became a welding apprentice. He ultimately found his place as an entrepreneur, taking over the supplies portion of his Father Mervals and Bus Rosprims business, opening up Sawtelle and Rosprim Industrial and Welding Supplies, and growing the company into a dominant farming supply force across three Central Valley locations, headquartered in Corcoran. After thirty-five successful years in business, Benny retired in 1997.
For Benny, it was always family first, sprinkled with continual humor. He was quite proud of his family, often saying, “Look at all I created!” First married Joan in 1957 while serving in the Armed Forces; together, they had four children. In 1974 he married Karen Santos from Riverdale and had two additional children, totaling six. Family trips were common, and he would insist on no phones or distractions. At the same time, he led everyone to sing silly songs like Katalina Matalina and pull pranks like pulling over and digging a Pepsi out of a random mountainside (only later to find out he hid it there prior).
Benny is survived by his loving wife of 47 years, Karen, his six children, Linda (Kevin), Sharon, Kenny (Desiree), Janine, Theresa (Drew), and Summer, along with twelve grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his former wife, Joan.
Whether it was bathing in the swimming pool, telling silly one-liners as you walked by, or belting out something from the Bee Gees, Stylistics, or Frank Sinatra with his rich baritone voice, Benny was always finding a way to make you laugh. His big smile and big blue eyes always brought a smile to your face. Fun-loving is a great way to describe him. He loved singing, dancing, horses and horse racing, sports of all kinds, bowling, gambling, storytelling, and shuffleboard games in the back of the shop. As time progressed, his joy came from watching sports (recorded, of course) and all the crime dramas you can count, including CSI and Blue Bloods.
Nobody is more proud of Corcoran than Benny, and no one is as kind and generous to his friends as Benny. Big Hearted is the phrase family and friends use in reflection. Benny would always give and never take. If you were in need, he would provide. He would create jobs at the shop for people who needed work; he would give the shirt off his back to a stranger. He would buy everyone at the bar around; he opened the soda machine for free and gave all he had.
Benny loved all sports, especially horseracing, NASCAR, and football. His favorite team, the Rams, just won the Super Bowl.
As a long-standing member of the community, he was known for his famous award-winning chili when he retired. He could be found behind the BBQ with his good friend Steve, barbequing for the yearly Shriners event at the Cotton Festival free of charge for fundraisers in the community. He was a generous man with a big heart. He helped people; he loved life.
We would like you to join us on May 2, 2022 for the viewing at People's Funeral Chapel located at 501 N. Douty St, Hanford from 11-1:00 p.m. Graveside services to follow at 2:00 p.m. at the Lemoore Cemetery located at 1441 N. Lemoore Ave in Lemoore. A Celebration of Life for Benny will take place at the Kate Boswell Senior Center located at 900 Dairy Ave, in Corcoran from 3-8:00 p.m.