Joseph Albert Benezra Major, USAF (Ret)|
Joseph Albert Benezra died peacefully at home on July 10th. Joe was born January 18, 1918, in Hartford, Connecticut, to Kadun (Louise) Morhaime Benezra and Albert Benezra, Sephardic Jews who had immigrated from Turkey. The family moved to Seattle where Joe attended Washington Elementary School and Garfield High School, Class of 1937.
Fascinated with airplanes at an early age, Joe learned to fly when he was just ten, and joined a flight club at Boeing Field while in high school. In 1940, Joe joined the Army Air Corps where he served as a flight instructor, and later a transport pilot. During WWII, Joe flew "The Hump" over the Himalayas between India and China in support of American and Chinese forces, including the famed Flying Tigers. In 1948-49, at the onset of the Cold War, Joe flew the Berlin Airlift. Both of these historic air operations were extremely dangerous but crucially important.
In 1950, Joe fell in love and married Frances Paola, an Air Force nurse. Joe and Franny had many interesting assignments in the Air Force, including at Keesler AFB (Mississippi), Kirtland AFB (New Mexico), and Hickam AFB (Hawaii), where Joe flew Air/Sea Rescue. During his long Air Force career, Joe flew many types of aircraft, of which he was justly proud. Joe was a pilot's pilot! He retired from the USAF in 1966, after which he worked at the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard until he and Franny both retired to their condo in beautiful Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii. A few years after Franny's death in 1996, he returned to live in Bellevue. In 2002, Joe met and fell for Nancy Leavitt, his last love, and they shared their lives together until Joe's death.
Joe was charming and charismatic, and will be missed.
Joe is survived by Nancy Leavitt and by his sister Mary's children, Lawrence Israel (Sandy), Allen Israel (Nettie), Arthur Israel (Glenda) and Vicky Morgan (Don). Joe had no children, but many nieces and nephews on both his and Franny's side, as well as from the Leavitt family. He was preceded in death by Franny, his older brother Leo, and his beloved sister Mary Louise Israel and her husband Max. The family is very grateful to his caregivers, Raymond, Reza and Ali.
Funeral Services will be held at 1:00 PM on Sunday at the Seattle Sephardic Brotherhood Cemetery, 1230 N. 167th Street, Shoreline.
Remembrances may be made to Jewish Family Service of Seattle, Bellevue Medic One or the USO.
Published in The Seattle Times from July 11 to July 12, 2014