WEBB CITY, Mo. — Bruce Benson, an Army veteran of World War II who was known for playing taps every day at sundown near the post office, died Sunday at the age of 95.
Susie Crutcher, his oldest daughter, described her father as a friendly person with a huge heart.
“He was very social,” she said. “He was very much a people person and not just as a courtesy, but he took people to heart. He wanted to remember their names. He wanted to know what they did. He took people to his heart and kept them there. We have people reaching out to us that we don’t even know, and they just feel like they’re family. He made people feel that way.”
Before he was drafted into the military, Benson majored in business administration and minored in music at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He was a longtime Webb City resident. His wife of 68 years, the former Jane Van Hoose, died in 2014.
In a 2018 interview with the Globe, Benson said he had played patriotic songs every day since 2016 in front of the post office flag not only in honor of his country but also for his wife because they had a deep connection through music.
The couple met while Benson was serving in the Army at Camp Crowder in Neosho. While assigned at Crowder, Benson played cornet in a pickup band and would perform in USO shows, which often were accompanied by dancers.
“Dancing schools would send dancers down to entertain the troops,” Benson told the Globe in 2018. “I was sitting on the bandstand one night, lonely and blue. She came up to me and asked, ‘Could you play two courses of 'Southern Fried' with a four-bar intro?’ I looked at her and said, ‘Yes, I think we can do that. Let’s talk about it.’”
Benson’s first military assignment was with Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s rear echelon in the Philippines. He was then placed in the trumpet section of the 281st Army Ground Forces 60-piece band.
In 1946, Benson returned to the U.S. after being deployed in the Pacific theater, and he married his wife in Webb City’s First Presbyterian Church. Next to his bed, he kept a journal in which she had written religious teachings. Benson read from it every night.
“That’s one of the main reasons I do what I do — play the national anthem every evening at sunset and then taps,” he said in 2018. “I know she would be proud."
The couple had four children, and Benson also owned a furniture store called the Contemporary Shop and was a charter pilot for Mizzou Aviation. He was a member of the American Legion Post 322 and Bugles Across America.
Crutcher said after her mother died, she and her siblings weren’t sure that Benson would live much longer, but the community stepped up to fill the void.
“People came into his life in all kinds of different ways, like the events he went to as he was playing taps, and all of these wonderful people just filled his life,” she said. “That’s what kept him going all of these years when we didn’t think he’d last six months. They filled that huge void that mom left, and we’re just forever thankful for that.”