Age 88 of Elmira, NY, passed away Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Ben was born in Brooklyn, NY, on May 22, 1925, to Charles Schye and Ida (Bernstein) Schmidt. The older of two sons, he was named for his mother's maternal grandfather, Benjamin Rubinstein. Ben attended Public School 50 and 60 in Brooklyn for kindergarten through the 4th grade and P.S. 80 for the 5th and 6th grades. He enjoyed a happy childhood, playing in Prospect Park near his home on 11th Avenue. When Ben began taking piano lessons, his talent for music became quickly apparent. He developed into an accomplished pianist and also enjoyed strumming on his banjo. At age 9 Ben auditioned for MGM by taking a screen and voice test. His idyllic childhood was shattered at age 11 when his father became very ill with spinal meningitis and passed away unexpectedly. As a sensitive, young man, Ben was affected by this trauma for the rest of his life. His mother, brother, and he moved to an apartment on Longfellow Avenue in the Bronx, and Ben commuted by subway to school. He attended Herman Ridder Junior High School and James Monroe High School. Upon graduating from high school in June 1943, he enrolled in the City College of New York and started studying music education. After the United States entered WW II, Ben enlisted in the army
for active duty from July 19, 1943, until December 27, 1945. The first 5 months of his basic training were spent taking a radio telegraph course at the School of Radio Communications in New York City. Ben was then transferred to Hawaii, the Philippines, and central Pacific islands, where he applied his training in an assault signal company. His job was a plane observer and radio operator, where he drove a jeep around the islands and with a pair of binoculars, watched for Japanese enemy planes and soldiers. He reported these sightings by radio to the United States planes, which bombed them. Ben served 20 months overseas and participated in the Guam, Leyte, Luxon, Ryukyus, and Okinawa Campaigns in 1944 and 1945. The last 4 months of his service, he was elevated to the rank of corporal. Ben was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Philippines Liberation Ribbon, and World War II
Victory Medal. He returned home a hero but a wounded warrior from his war experiences. For 14 years Ben lived with his niece, Sandy, in Horseheads, NY, from November 1986 to February 2001. While he resided there, he loved to eat! His favorite food was hamburgers and ice cream, and he could devour them like a hungry hired hand. Although Ben did not play the piano any longer, he still possessed a passion for music and enjoyed listening to tunes on the radio, his tape recorder, and CD player. His favorite music was the big band leaders and crooners from the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to music, Ben liked animals and enjoyed petting the family cat, Hopsing, and conversing with the neighbor's cat, Daisy. On February 23, 2001, as Ben was stomping out his cigarette, he slipped on the icy sidewalk and fractured his hip in four places. Following his fall Ben lived at St. Joseph's Skilled Nursing Facility for nearly 13 years until his demise. In his private room 378 he continuously watched the travel channel on his cable TV and never missed "The Lawrence Welk Show" on Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. His niece regularly visited and brought snacks to him. For exercise the two walked together through the halls on the 3rd floor. When the weather was mild, they ambled partway around the hospital building. Ben was kind and polite to all the visitors who entered his room and would often ask them about the weather. Throughout his life Ben was a big, lovable teddy bear with a sweet disposition. He was always Gentle Ben without a mean bone in his body, who would not hurt a fly. His heart was pure, and his hands were clean. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Although Ben led a simple life, he had a great impact on those whose lives he touched. He had a tragic destiny but bore his afflictions with long-suffering patience. Whatever pain or trial Ben faced, he never complained. His contented, uncomplaining attitude made him a blessing to his family and a beloved resident to the Skilled Nursing Facility staff. He taught us valuable lessons on the virtues of kindness, patience, and contentment. We imagine Ben, "tickling the ivories" on some celestial piano. He is survived by his sister-in-law, Lois Schmidt, of Horseheads, NY; his nieces: Sandra Schmidt of Horseheads, NY, and Kathleen (Martin) Schiff of Stone Ridge, NY; great-niece, Rachel Schiff, and great-nephew, Benjamin Schiff. A graveside service was held at the Temple B'Nai Israel Cemetery in Elmira, NY, on Friday, March 14, 2014. Following the ceremony the Chemung County Military Honors Squad conducted a military service with a grateful nation, giving thanks to Ben for the sacrifice he made to his country. The family wishes to thank the 3rd floor staff at St. Joseph's Hospital Skilled Nursing Facility for treating Ben like a member of their own family and Dr. Michael J. Georgetson, endoscopic surgeon at Guthrie Clinic, for using his talents to extend Ben's life 5 years. ARRANGEMENTS BY BAKER FAMILY FUNERAL HOME.