Benjamin Robert Symmes of Bozeman was lost at sea on July 31, 2009, near Togiak, Alaska. He was 31.
Ben, as he was known to his friends and family, was born on Oct. 4, 1977, to Charles Thomas and Carol Diane (Zenier) Symmes in Lewiston, Idaho. He grew up in Idaho and Alaska before graduating from Whitefish High School. While in school, he participated in several sports, including hockey and Tae Kwon Do. He was also a member of his high school golf team.
After graduation, Ben studied briefly at the University of Montana where he was a member of the Alpha Phi chapter of Sigma Nu. He earned an associate of science degree from Flathead Valley Community College, and while there became the captain of the Logger Sports Team, as well as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He studied at Montana Tech in Butte and then transferred to Montana State University, where he was pursuing his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at the time of his disappearance.
From the time he was in high school, Ben spent most of his summers working as a deckhand on his father's fishing vessel in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The few summers he was not in Alaska, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a firefighter, eventually earning a position on the elite Interagency Hotshot Crew in Prineville, Ore. After moving to Bozeman, he also started his own construction business, Symmes Construction, LLC.
An avid outdoorsman, Ben explored the Montana wilderness every chance he could. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, hiking, horseback riding, camping and spending days at the lake. He also continued to practice his golf game and played several courses in Montana.
Ben was a man of exceptional integrity and outstanding character. His friendly nature and genuine concern for those around him was remarkable. He was healthy and strong with a gentle disposition, a compassionate heart and a keen wit. He brought an indomitable sense of purpose and determination to all of his endeavors.
He is survived by his mother and her fiance, Richard Anthony Hyde, both of Sandpoint, Idaho; his father and stepmother, Paula Joan (Wilson) Symmes, of Kalispell; a sister and a brother-in-law, Arrie Anna (Symmes) and Joshua Tyler Frakes, of Spokane, Wash.; a half-brother, Ryan Thomas Symmes; and a half-sister, Laura Marie Symmes.
The family would like to extend its profound gratitude to the United States Coast Guard, the Alaska state troopers and especially the fishermen, local volunteers, and all those who donated time and resources during the search and rescue efforts.
A memorial service will be held at the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26.
The Ben Symmes Donation account has been established to support search and rescue efforts for commercial fishermen in Alaska. Contributions in Ben's honor may be made to the account at any Wells Fargo bank.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Sept. 13, 2009