Roderick Bruce Bentley, 91, died on February 15, 2013 in Gove County Medical
Center. He was born on June 20, 1921 to Art and Vera Louise (Jennison) Bentley on a ranch just south of the Smoky Hill River in Gove County where he lived and worked all of his life on the land he loved.
Rod graduated from Dighton High School with the class of 1940. His teachers were extremely dedicated educators. Although Rod did not attend college, he was self-educated in his occupation of rancher/farmer, and also history, politics, economics, and law dealing with agricultural and real estate transactions. While in high school, he won first place in economics in a state scholastic competition.
He answered the call to serve his country in 1942 by volunteering to serve in the U.S.
Army Air Force for the duration of World War II. The ship he boarded was supposed to be headed to North Africa. By mistake his unit landed in Gander, Newfoundland where he serviced incoming and outgoing airplanes bound for the battlefields of Europe. He was also stationed in Bangor, Maine.
In 1944 he married the love of his life, Saralee Flora of Quinter. After the war they returned to farm and ranch in Gove and Lane Counties, where they raised their three children, Sara, Fred and Dana.
In 1950, Rod became active in the Kansas Young Republicans serving as Chairman for his county and then as Treasurer for the 6th District. In 1954, Rod ran for the Kansas House of Representatives from Gove County. He won a contested primary and went on to win the general election. During his two terms in office, he served as Chairman of the Election and Vice-Chairman of the Ways and Means committees. He also worked on numerous campaigns at the local, state, and national level. Rod participated in every primary and general election since 1942, the year he became of voting age. Rod felt very passionate about politics. He was a firm believer in the two party system and wanted every citizen to get involved and exercise their right to vote. Rod’s passion for politics was such that in 1946, due to very muddy road conditions, he and his father Art rode their horses 24 miles round trip to a school house in Larrabee Township in order to vote.
His community service included a stint on the Shields School Board. He also drove an informal “school bus” (usually a slightly beaten up old station wagon) that he used to transport students living north of Shields to grade school every day. One spring the roads where so muddy that he had to transport his own children on a tractor from home to the Lane County line where he had left the station wagon. Education was extremely important to him and not even Mother Nature could intervene.
He was an active member of the Kansas Livestock Association and the Kansas
Association of Wheat Growers and participated with Saralee in many state and national conventions. He enjoyed being involved in both the Gove and Lane County Historical Societies and participated in an archaeological dig at Fort Wallace in Logan County with enthusiasm. He attended the First Christian Church in Dighton and served as a deacon.
He was a loyal and dedicated member of the Dighton Rotary International Club and served as Rotary District 5670 Governor in 1992-93. Even when on his world travels he never missed a weekly Rotary meeting.
Rod and Saralee loved traveling and visited Europe, Africa, the Soviet Union, Turkey,
Australia and New Zealand, Mexico, Central America and Canada and most of the
United States. He realized his dreams of arriving in Istanbul by boat, traveling the
Trans-Siberian Railroad in its entirety and riding camels in Egypt and Outer Mongolia.
In 1991 he served as a volunteer agricultural consultant to wheat farmers in Saratov, Russia through Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA), a non-profit international people-to-people economic development organization founded by the U.S. cooperative community.
Rod and Saralee were avid collectors and together they attended auctions, visited antique shops and assembled impressive collections of old coffee, spice and peanut
butter tins, ink wells, glass, coins and stamps. Their children were often amazed by the quantity and variety of the objects they collected.
Rod was a faithful and loyal husband and father and a generous neighbor. He loved Western Kansas, especially the land along the Smoky Hill River, and he never seriously considered living his life anywhere else. He is survived and will be forever missed and remembered with love and respect by Saralee, his wife of 68 years, a sister, Leora Bliss, Auburn, Alabama, his children, Sara, Bangor, Wisconsin, Fred, Whiting, Kansas and Dana, Dighton; two granddaughters, Tara Bentley Moyer (Randy), Denver, Colorado and Suzanne Bentley Reese (Michael), Olympia, Washington; and four great grandchildren, Ava and Gavin Reese and Dylan and Brooklyn Moyer.
His grandchildren, nieces and nephews will always remember the outdoor adventures he provided during the summers they spent at the ranch. His family and friends will miss his ability to tell interesting and amusing stories.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Arthur and Vera Louise Bentley, his sisters Reva Lewis and Ada May Seymour, and his brother, Robert Bentley.
Memorial services will be held at the First Christian Church in Dighton in spring or early summer at a date and time to be announced.
His ashes will be released by his family to the wind and sky to fall upon the prairie he loved..
I bequeath myself to the earth, to grow from the grass I love. If you want me again, look for me under your boot soles.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Memorials may be made to the First Christian Church of Dighton, Lane County
Historical Society, Gove County Historical Society, and the Rotary Foundation for water projects.