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Obituary of Benjamin Daniel Grebenc
Benjamin Daniel Grebenc, born March 1, 1975, passed into eternal rest on May 6th, 2023, in the peace and comfort of home. Ben was the son of Romie Tobin and Dan Grebenc. Ben is survived by his brother, Brady Grebenc, niece Amelia and nephew Rory; his sister, Meg Welsh (Grebenc), her husband, Ben, nephew Ben, and niece Annie Rose; his father, Dan Grebenc, Dan’s wife, Bridget, and his little sister, Molly Grebenc, and his mother, Romie Tobin. Ben loved nothing more than spending time with his family that includes 7 Aunts, 6 Uncles and 23 first cousins. Ben was a third-generation native of Colorado and lived his entire life in Fort Collins.
Ben attended Elementary school at Riffenburgh and Tavelli. He attended his neighborhood junior high school, Boltz. While at Boltz, Ben’s educational experiences were enhanced by his inclusion facilitator, Renee Ostergren. The years at Boltz were Ben’s favorite school years. There, he was a manager for the JV basketball team and attended dances and other sporting events. As he lived just a block away from the school, Ben frequently took his yellow lab, Fanny, to the football field to watch the games and cheer on the team and chat with friends along the sidelines. Ben graduated from Rocky Mountain High School and was proud to be part of the Lobo Nation.
Ben was a trailblazer and teacher who challenged his family, friends, teachers, and administrators to do their best to ensure that he was included and meaningfully immersed in the culture of each of the schools he attended. Ben’s gift was to provide others with the opportunity to rise to their highest level of humanity. From the teachers who learned to provide accommodations and adaptations for things like a block print project in art that required that he use some very sharp tools, to the basketball court where his teammates (and the opposing team members) demonstrated extraordinary sportsmanship by providing Ben the chance to play in a real game and score.
Ben participated in track and field events with the Special Olympics and later enjoyed the Fort Collins Adaptive Recreation Opportunities (ARO) Unified sports, with basketball and softball being his favorites. He was a loyal fan of Colorado sports teams, most notably the Denver Broncos and the Avalanche hockey team. His closet was full of myriad team jerseys from a variety of professional teams, including the Broncos, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Dallas Cowboys. Ben also followed college teams, especially the Air Force Academy, Colorado State University, the University of Wyoming, and the University of Notre Dame. Sundays would find him on the sofa watching PGA Golf or Professional Bull Riding (PBR).
At heart, Ben was a Cowboy with dreams of living on a ranch. He loved all things western, such as country music, western clothes, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, shiny belt buckles, Wrangler jeans, rodeos, roping, and branding weekends at the ranch of his Aunt and Uncle, Peggy and Jim Hearne, near Garrett, Wyoming. Ben’s favorite job was as a ranch hand at Greenshire Stables, and he loved working at Rabbit Shadow Farms Nursery. He was also a volunteer at the Laughing Buck Educational Farm.
…and he danced. Ben never missed a chance to dance his heart out. He participated in monthly ARO dances. He danced at several of his relatives’ and friends’ weddings and was often first onto the dance floor and the last to leave. He was especially honored to have a special dance with his sister, Meg, at her wedding. The soundtrack of Ben’s life was filled with George Strait and Kenny Rogers’ greatest hits, with background “melodies” of cows lowing to their bawling calves at branding.
Family was, without a doubt, most important to Ben. He rarely missed a day to use his iPad to Facetime his Dad and his siblings, Brady and Meg. When he met someone new, he would always inquire about their family and thereafter he would always ask, “how’s your daughter?” or “how’re your dogs?” Ben counted dogs as an important part of a family. He enjoyed being the “master” of three great dogs: JB, Fanny, and Nani, and three dogs from his Denver family, Fitz, Chubbie and Charlie. Most every day when we walked through the neighborhood park, he would meet someone with dogs and take the time to scratch the dogs’ ears and give them belly rubs. Then he would frequently say, “I’m still missing our dogs!”
Ben came to understand the “span of time” not by dates but by events. Starting with his birthday in March, then Easter, and Mother’s Day in Spring. June was branding and Father’s Day. July – The Daddy of ‘Em All – Cheyenne Frontier Days. Over the years, Ben met many rodeo cowboys, rodeo clowns, stockmen and announcers who became true friends. Fall brought Halloween and Thanksgiving (turkey with ketchup was his favorite). Christmas was a special time, but it also signaled that his annual trip with his Dad’s family to the National Western Stock show and Rodeo were right around the corner.
During Ben’s recovery from chemotherapy, we started to talk about where he would live next. About two years ago, we became members of L’Arche Fort Collins and began the process of building a new circle of friends for both Ben and his family. The L’Arche community is focused on building relationships and community while at the same time making plans to build two homes in the Heartside Hill intentional community (located at Trilby and Lemay) where we hoped Ben would one day live surrounded by supportive friendships, enjoy an active lifestyle, utilize his abilities to contribute, and stay connected with his family.
As Ben’s family, we want to thank the many family members, friends and professionals throughout Ben’s life who contributed to Ben living his best life. It did “take a Village!” Poudre School District teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, therapists and coaches, Foothills Gateway and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Support Inc. all provided invaluable guidance and resources. In all of these organizations and agencies, it was not just the services that mattered; it was the personal connections that made the services so extraordinary. Throughout his life, Ben experienced excellent health care beginning with the Fort Collins Youth Clinic. As an adult, we appreciate the dedicated physicians, nurses, physician assistants, primary care providers, and healthcare services from Associates in family Medicine and UC Health (especially Oncology and Pulmonary medicine). This past week, we give our deepest thanks to the Critical Care team members at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, Poudre Valley Hospital Intensive care, and Accent Hospice, who with great care and skill gently ushered Ben and our family through his final days.
Editorial Footnote from Brady and Meg: If you knew Ben, you knew that his mother, Romie, was his fiercest advocate and gentlest support. You don’t see her mentioned above because, as is so often the case, she is in the background: quietly ensuring that her baby is safe, insisting that the world make room for him, holding him in joy and in sadness, cultivating his bold confidence, nurturing his God-given Cowboy character, attending to his every need through the relentless struggle of cancer treatment, comforting him as only a mother can in his transition to the Lord, and now writing this obituary. If you were lucky enough to know the Joy that Ben brought to life, you also know that he had his mom to thank for that, as we all do. His last wish was that we all commit to take care of her, just the way she took care of him. Ben advanced from this Earthly life with his mom and dad, sister and brother and the Holy Spirit by his side. What a truly lucky guy. And how blessed are we to have learned from him.
In lieu of flowers please donate to L'arche Fort Collins at https://www.larchefortcollins.org/donate/