Tournament Maven Gary Benson Passes


Someone once said Gary Benson personally lugged more pool tables than anyone else. For example, his High Country Promotions shipped and set up all the pool tables for VNEA’s annual Las Vegas Internationals (as well as for many other coin-op league playoffs). This man lifted more wood than anyone, with the possible exception of the guys on Valley-Dynamo’s loading dock.

A lot of operators may not know that Gary also owned all that wood along with that giant truck to delivery them to tournament venues around the country from his base in Ft. Collins, Colorado. His organization set up some 300 tables at the VNEA International event alone.

Gary died of cancer on Dec. 6, aged 72, at a hospice in Windsor, Colo. His two sons, Shannon and Corey, were with him when he passed. Shannon, a veteran at High Country, will take over the organization now that his father is gone and will support next year’s VNEA, their 40th, again in Vegas.

Along with Chuck Milhem and Dick Hawkins, Gary Benson was one of the founding fathers who ran the very first VNEA finals way back in Rochester, Minn., and has not only been their logistics chief but tournament director at many successive events besides during all those 40 years. He was also an owner of the BMW Billiards route operation years ago, but had eventually sold his share to Judy Mehle and another partner.

Many friends, like operators Sam Westgate and Dan Sunday, along with many of VNEA’s charter operators expressed sadness at the news. Milhem, Valley’s former president, said: “I have many memories of working with Gary and marveled at his tremendous energy. There wasn’t a problem he couldn’t solve with a smile and positive attitude.”

VNEA’s Gregg and Brian Elliott issued a notice advising that Gary will be laid to rest in a special Military Graveside Service at Fort Logan National Cemetery this Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 11:15 a.m. at Staging Area C.  Fort Logan is located at 4400 W. Kenyon Ave. in Denver.

A Celebration of Life will take place at Match-Up’s in Fort Collins at 4 p.m. following the military service. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, friends can make a donation in Gary’s name to the American Cancer Society. May he rest in God’s peace.


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