Bernard Henry "Ben" Bodewes, of Manchester, Mich., born Nov. 14, 1939, in St. Louis, Mo., died Saturday, July 13, 2013, at his home in the presence of his family.
He is survived by his wife, Cindy; daughters, Meta Bodewes (husband Marcus Chang) and Rachel (Donald) Kobish; and three wonderful grandgirls, Mila, Ally and Bella Kobish. He is also survived by his brothers, Herman of Springfield, Ill., and Paul Bodewes of Fayetteville, Ill.; and many other loving family members.
Ben was ordained a Catholic priest on May 1, 1965 at St. Peter's Cathedral in Belleville and for four years served as assistant pastor at St. Joseph Church, Freeburg and St. Albert the Great Church, Fairview Heights. In 1969 he was assigned to Cairo, Ill., to assist the African American community in their struggle for civil rights and social justice. There he was threatened by the local White Citizen's Council and later put in jail and teargassed for engaging in a civil rights march with the Rev. Jesse Jackson. In May 1971 his home was riddled with bullets and teargassed by the White Citizen's Council in cooperation with the Cairo police. Through the efforts of Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon the Illinois State Police intervened and rescued Father Bodewes, a visiting priest, and a local attorney. Father Bodewes left Cairo at the end of 1971.
Following his marriage he worked in community development in St. Louis before moving to Ann Arbor, Mich. in 1991. There he worked for several years at Ozone House, a shelter for homeless teens. He then operated greenhouses at his home until 2010 while at the same time maintaining his interest in social justice and assisting the less fortunate. Since 2007 he volunteered with Re-Member, an outreach organization serving Lakota families and their housing needs on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Indian Reservation, South Dakota. The gentleness and humility with which he lived his life and the love he has shown his family and those marginalized by society will be his legacy. His kindness will long be remembered.
In lieu of flowers please send donations for Re-Member to the Church of the Good Shepherd, 2145 Independence Blvd., Ann Arbor Mich., 48104-6438. Make checks payable to COGS and note "Bodewes Memorial".
Funeral: There was a memorial service at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, 2013, at the Bodewes family home.
Published in Belleville News-Democrat on July 21, 2013