Culmer BentonCulmer Coleman Benton Jr. passed away peacefully on May 16, 2014 at 89 near his decades-old teddy bear collection.
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He was born in San Diego in 1925, the son of Dr. Culmer and Mary Benton. He attended Francis Parker School in Mission Hills, remaining there through ninth grade until his family moved to Loma Portal and he transferred to Point Loma High School graduating in 1943. He was promptly drafted upon his 18th birthday in February of his senior year, but managed to join the Navy and delay service until the summer of '43. The Navy sent him to school at USC and UCLA. He also studied radio electronics and later served on the USS New Orleans and USS Nashville before receiving an Honorable discharge at the end of the war. Culmer studied Theater Arts receiving a BA from UCLA in 1949, then moved to Paris where he was a theater technical director prior to working for the US State Department at the US Embassy in Paris during the intrigue of the Cold War years. He used his time in Paris to become an excellent French chef and enjoyed a wonderful social life in post-war Paris.
Leaving Paris in 1958 he was soon in San Francisco becoming a manager for F. Schumacher & Co. He retired 1989 after 30 years of service. At his retirement he was described as an "honorable, fine gentleman – a man of grace and charm. Who did a great job and have always been productive. You are admired, respected and loved by your colleagues, your customers and your associates. What greater legacy can any man leave? Culmer always loved a fine vodka martini and cooking for his friends using his expertise in both French and Asian cuisines. He had a wonderful life in San Francisco.
In 1998, he returned to San Diego to buy a condominium in Rancho Bernardo. He was tickled by his great-nephew who with a generous contribution from his Great Uncle Culmer, took his parents to an annual extravagant dinner. "Blow all of the money on a great meal," he would tell him followed by his characteristic deep and hardy laugh. Culmer was a 55-year member of the Marines Memorial Association and contributed to the USO, the Zoological Society of San Diego, the Humane Society and Easter Seals.
Preceded in death by his sister Nancy and his beloved dachshund Linus. He is survived by his brother-in-law Col T A Demosthenes, his nephews, Philip Demosthenes in Denver and Ted Demosthenes in Renton WA and their families.
Culmer Benton will be interned at the Miramar National Cemetery for veterans. Please lift a toast to Culmer over a fine meal and even if you don't hear the clink of his glass from the other side, you know his glass is still raised.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 3, 2014