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Benino "Ben" Mancha


1923 - 2010 Obituary Condolences
ODESSA At home, with those he loved, Benino "Ben" Mancha, 86, of Odessa, passed from this life into the home of our Heavenly Father.
Ben was born in Toyah, Texas, on December 9, 1923, to Canuto and Carlota (Garcia) Mancha. Following the death of his father, he quit school when in the 6th grade in order to help support his family.
One of his first jobs was as a dishwasher at the Crawford Hotel in Big Spring. The chef was a Black man. Ben told him he wanted to learn to cook and was told that as long as he was caught up with his dishwashing, he would teach him. It was here where his love of cooking began and where, because of the kindness of the Black chef, he promised himself that someday he would own a restaurant where "everyone would not only be welcomed but would be served."
After working for the Civilian Conservation Corps in Lamesa, he joined the Army where his cooking skills were refined, and in 1946, was discharged with the rank of sergeant.
He returned to Big Spring but decided to move to Odessa where the 'discrimination wasn't as bad.'
Upon arriving, he went to the Frisco Café in downtown Odessa and asked for a job. He was told they were 'not hiring dishwashers.' He promptly told the owner that he was not a dishwasher but a 'chef.' He offered to work for her for two weeks. If at the end of the two weeks she was not satisfied with his cooking skills, not to pay him a penny!
He received a paycheck after the first week. He later went to work for Manuel Gonzales, owner of the Little Mexico Café, located in South Odessa.
When Gonzales opened his new restaurant on 2nd street, he sold the south side restaurant to Ben, which he promptly named, "Ben's Little Mexico." Ben later teamed with Ernest Martinez and moved the restaurant to South Dixie and later to N. Grandview where the name was changed to "El Meson." After dissolving the partnership, Ben opened a take-out place on Grandview, and in 1988 opened "Ben's Little Mexico" on E 8th Street.
In the 50's, as Ben's business grew, so did his reputation in the community. Ben was the "go to" person if one needed a job, food, housing, advice, or a "short term loan with no interest."
Along with Martinez, he was instrumental in pushing for Spanish TV programming, the hiring of minorities by the electronic media and by the major oil companies. He was one of the founders of the Basin Lions Club and co-founder and co-owner of what was labeled the nicest ballroom between Dallas and El Paso-the Pan American Ballroom. Ben's numerous awards and citations include having an endowed scholarship at UTPB named in his honor and being honored by the Odessa Heritage Foundation, in 2002, with the Businessman award.
In spite of his many successes, Ben's major regret was not having obtained a high school diploma, much less a college degree. That regret was compounded by the fact that Hispanics graduating from ECISD were NOT going to college.
In 1972, in anticipation of the opening of UTPB, he founded the Mexican American Scholarship Committee (MASC). Its purpose: to award scholarships to Hispanic students from the Permian Basin admitted to UTPB or enrolled at Odessa College with plans to transfer to UTPB.
Ben was preceded in death by his parents, his son, Ernest, his siblings: Eva Martinez, Elvira Lucero, Pedro, Gilberto, and Luis Mancha. He leaves to cherish his memory, his beloved wife Lenora; his children: Alfredo (Virginia); Charlotte Duarte, Rosa, Niemo (Steven) Regalado, Melissa, and Adam "Bobby" (Amanda); 12 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.
The family wishes to thank Home Hospice, Nurses Unlimited, VA's Home Based Program, and the loyal customers for their comforting words and offers of help during Ben's extended illness.
A special acknowledgement to his loving wife, Lenora, Rose, Niemo and Steven, for insuring that Ben received the loving, 24/7 care that he so richly deserved.
In lieu of flowers, Ben would prefer that you send a donation to the UTPB Ben Mancha Endowed Scholarship, c/o Kay Bivens, 4901 E. University, Odessa, TX 79762, or donate a book to the Ector County Library.
A rosary will be said at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 30, 2010, at Frank W. Wilson Funeral Directors. Mass will be 10 a.m. Saturday, July 31, 2010, at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church with Father Mark Woodruff officiating.
Services entrusted to Frank W. Wilson Funeral Directors.
Published in Odessa American on July 29, 2010
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