Roy Benjamin (Benny) Conley II
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Roy Benjamin (Benny) Conley II

Roy Benjamin (Benny) Conley II went to his eternal home while at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Sunday, November 15, 2020. He waged a fierce battle with glioblastoma multiforme for the past seventeen months and demonstrated his unwavering faith and indomitable spirit. Benny wouldn't want us to focus on the cancer that took his life, but rather on how rich and full his 67 years here at his earthly home have been. After his diagnosis, he said that if his life ended that day, he had been blessed, and every additional day he had he was grateful for it.

Benny was born on July 1, 1953, at Fort Sanders Hospital in Knoxville to parents Roy and Betty Queener Conley. He was a North Knoxville boy, having grown up on Rudy Street near Sharp's Ridge. Because his mother cared for his two brothers, Jeffrey and Kerry, who were born with cerebral palsy, Benny was quite the independent, curious, adventurous, but responsible child, except when he ran up a $2.00 tab of milk and cakes at Fred's neighborhood store and was admonished by Betty. He often rummaged through the trash cans at Fred's for Tom's potato chip bags for entrance to The Chipmunk Club's movies at the Tennessee Theater. He and a neighborhood pal would ride their bikes or take the bus to the Tennessee and then eat at Nan Denton's or if they had enough money, treat themselves to a slice of cake at the counter at Regas. Benny could tell story after story of growing up on Rudy Street, which were memories that sustained him throughout his life.

Benny attended Lonsdale Elementary and junior and senior high at Rule High School. He was truly a Rule Golden Bear. He lettered in baseball and tennis, as well as football, and often quoted his beloved Coach Bob Poston's smash mouth football style when he complained from time to time about a certain university football team. He was senior class president, Class of 1971, and a football captain.

After graduation from Rule, he decided working in the produce department at the local A&P wasn't for him, so he started working full time at Moore's Lumber Company on Clinton Highway in Knoxville while pursuing his electrical engineering degree full time at the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville. He often laughed that he paid for his education at UT each quarter in installments, but he knew where his education came from.

In 1979, he graduated UT with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and took a job in Dallas, Texas, but returned to Knoxville in December 1979 and began a career spanning over 40 years on the Department of Energy Oak Ridge Reservation. He worked at the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant (K-25), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (X-10/ ORNL), and most recently at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12). He started out in engineering maintenance at K-25 and then worked in computer networks at ORNL, and most recently, design engineering, which he found extremely satisfying. He was a Professional Engineer (PE), a Six Sigma Black Belt, and a Project Management Professional (inactive).

Benny loved all music from Andrea Bocelli to ZZ Top, but bluegrass stole his heart. After a birthday gift of a beginner mandolin and starter lessons with music teacher Tim Worman, Benny looked for concerts to attend to see the "greats" and with the exception of a few, he saw them. After the mandolin, he started banjo lessons as well and discovered he liked the banjo even better than the mandolin. Now, Benny would be the first to tell you that Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs didn't have anything to worry about (and that's not a reflection on Tim's teaching), but Benny played for the pure joy of music—for himself.

He could fix or build anything and did. He became a licensed contractor so that he could build his own home in Tellico Village—all that experience he got at Moore's turned out to be invaluable.

Benny was also a history buff and loved all of David McCullough and Shelby Foote's work and traveled to many historical sites and Civil War battlefields, including a trip to Gettysburg, Valley Forge, and Philadelphia a few years ago. Also, when he could, he tried to catch lectures at the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable.

Benny at 67 was still that same independent, curious, adventurous, and responsible little boy from Rudy Street and the popular and just plain fun guy who was class president and football captain at Rule and the engineer at Y-12 who wore ties or bow ties (especially on National Bow Tie Day) to work just to throw everyone off that there was some big, special event going on, only for Benny to tell them he had a phone interview later that day, so he had to dress up. He made all of our lives richer just by being Benny.

Although our sorrow is great, we are comforted in knowing that Benny who grew up attending the 8th Avenue Church of God in Knoxville was ready to go to his eternal home, having made a profession of faith and been baptized as a youth and having relied on His promise that this world is not our home.

Benny is preceded in death by his parents Roy and Betty, brothers Jeffrey and Kerry, and mother-in-law Jeanette Francis.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce Francis, Tellico Village; brother Tim (Kim) Conley, Knoxville; sons Chase and Blake (Natalie, Oliver), Knoxville; father-in-law John E. Francis, Newport; brothers-in-law Mike (Connie) Francis, Murfreesboro, and Mark Francis, Union, Kentucky; several nieces and nephews; and an enormous number of friends, neighbors, and colleagues who loved him dearly.

We want to express a special thank you to family member Wilma Tipton, Dandridge, for all her help and support during Benny's illness.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Faith Comes By Hearing (2421 Aztec Road NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107 or by calling 1-800-545-6552). Benny supported this charity and believed in their work to spread the Gospel through audio devices so that individuals around the world can hear the Gospel in their own languages.

Graveside funeral services will be held 11 am Friday, November 20, 2020, in Union Cemetery, Newport, TN with Rev. Dennis Strange officiating.

Family and friends may sign online at: Arrangements by Manes Funeral Home

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Knoxville News Sentinel from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20, 2020.
Graveside service
11:00 AM
Union Cemetery
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November 19, 2020
I worked with Benny for a short time on UPF at Y-12. He was a good engineer and well-respected. My condolences.
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