Cover photo for Ben Alva Barnhart's Obituary
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1922 Ben 2018

Ben Alva Barnhart

August 13, 1922 — October 17, 2018

            Ben Alva Barnhart, 96 years old, Nebraska pioneer farmer, WWII sailor and veteran, boxer, and family man, the last member of his family and his generation, passed away October 17, 2018, in Broken Bow, Nebraska. Burial will be in the Somerford neighborhood cemetery beside his wife Lucille and grandsons Phillip and Merlin Seidel.

            Ben was born to Neva and Alva Barnhart August 13, 1922, on a farm near North Loup, Nebraska, one of several in the North Loup area where the Barnharts lived.  In 1933, the family bought and moved to a farm six miles southwest of Sargent. He made sure everyone knew his name was Ben, not Benjamin. Ben was the third son of four boys, and he grew up knowing not only that he would be farming but also how to survive and take care of himself.  As a young boy, he lost some of his teeth while mowing when his team of horses ran away with him.  Ben was a guard on the football team and was active in FFA. Of course, cars were an exciting part of his life, and he and brother Tot drove, often only on two wheels, around and around their school many evenings.

            Ben graduated from Sargent High School in 1942 and joined the Navy before the end of the year, despite his father’s strong objections. All of the Barnhart sons served in the military at the same time. Ben trained at Great Lakes Naval Station and looked forward to seeing the Pacific Ocean. He did not appreciate being landlocked and wanted to be aboard a ship. In 1943, he was assigned to the USS Elden, a destroyer escort, stationed on the west coast of California and Oregon, and got his wish to go to sea. The ocean was just as beautiful as he had imagined.

            While on board ship, Ben did guard duty, worked in the machine shop, tooled parts and did repair. When he was off-duty, he boxed, just because he could, and at  5’6” tall, he was wiry and feisty and tough a champ. He’d been trained well by brother Francis, known to all as Tot. As Ben told the story, Tot started the fights and Ben finished them.  Ben was only 300 miles south of Japan when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 1945. When the fighting, all of it, was over, Ben came home to Nebraska, in 1946, and again became landlocked on the Nebraska prairie. The four Barnhart sons made their parents, especially their mother Neva, happy when they came home alive. Neva was a wonderful mother and fiercely protective of her boys. Father Alva was especially pleased that the boys came home to farm. All of Alva’s boys were expected to work on the farm, and they all did, but as soon as they could, one by one, they left; Ben was the only one who stayed to farm with his father. After years of being under his not-so-easy-to-get-along-with father’s thumb, and after Alva’s death, Ben took over the farming operation. His mom continued to live in the “big house” on the farm under Ben and Lucille’s watchful eye. Ben’s beloved mother died in 1986,  a great loss for him and his brothers and the rest of her family. Ben and wife Lucille purchased the part of the farm they did not own from his brothers, Merlyn, Richard, and Francis. He and Lucille stayed on that farm until 2015 when they moved to Broken Bow.

            His parents weren’t the only people happy to see Ben when he returned from his stint in the Navy. Lucille Horky, also a Sargent High School student at the same time, wrote him from Chicago to ensure that he was available for dating. He was, they did, and they were married October 18, 1947, and lived and farmed on the Barnhart homestead.   Ben became a Catholic when he and Lucille were married, and they were faithful and devoted members of Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Sargent. He belonged to American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He and Lucille square danced, played cards, and entertained family in their home, and they loved traveling, sometimes taking along a fortunate pair of nieces and/or nephews.  Ben’s fun-loving, teasing, easy-going, happy personality made him a favorite uncle to the children in both of their families.

            Ben and Lucille had always wanted children and fulfilled a dream when they adopted Nancy Ann and James Alva in 1958 and 1962. Ben loved being a dad and was a great father to Jim and Nancy. Later in life, he also loved being a grandfather to Phillip and Merlin, Nancy’s sons.  All of them were active in 4H, rodeos, and spectator sports. They went places and did things, and later, as Ben aged and it was more difficult to get around, Ben and Lucille and their grandsons watched as many sports as possible on television. They were faithful Big Red fans. Ben loved talking to his brothers and other family members on the phone and many a Sunday afternoon was spent re-hashing a football or baseball game play-by-play with Barney or when the other two still lived, Tot or Dick. They learned from a pro. Neva, their mother, in her eighties, known to most as Grandma B., lay awake in bed at night listening to Kansas City Royals games.  Ben and Lucille also went to reunions of the USS Elden and had great times re-connecting with his shipmates at various places in the United States. Ben loved the land and gardening. He and his dad planted corn, and all of the family, near and far, loved that corn on the cob and home-grown popcorn. Ben planted two vegetable gardens and raised fragrant, delicious muskmelons and watermelon as well as peaches, plums, cherries, and pears. He and Lucille canned tomatoes and many other vegetables he grew in Nebraska soil. He loved the sea and the coast, but he was a “landlubber” and farmer first.  The basement of their house was filled with the fruits of their labor. 

            Ben had planned to stay on the farm where he had lived and worked for over 90 years until the day he died, but sadly, he and Lucille, married for almost 72 years, found it necessary to move, with the help of their son Jim, to an assisted living lifestyle in Broken Bow. Jim returned to the area in 2015, to care for and help his parents. Lucille died July 8, 2018.

            Ben, the last of his family and generation, was preceded in death by his wife Lucille; parents Alva Bland and Neva Elthier Barnhart; infant sister, brothers Merlyn Riley, Richard Oscar, and Francis Dale; and grandsons Phillip and Merlin Seidel.

            Ben is survived by his daughter Nancy Ann Horky (John): his son James Alva (Tammy) and by a few nieces and nephews on the Horky side of the family and a few on the Barnhart side. He will be revered and remembered as long as they live as a truly wonderful father and uncle—funny, joyful, and loving but no push-over!  He inherited the Barnhart temper.  Rest in peace, Ben Alva Barnhart, knowing you were one of the best of the good guys.

                                                                        Marilyn Lee Barnhart Johnson, niece

                                                                        Daughter of Merlyn


Funeral services will be held Tuesday, October 23, 2018, at 10:00 AM at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Sargent, NE with Father Jim Hunt officiating. A Wake service will be held Monday evening at 7:00 PM also at the Church in Sargent, with family greeting friends from 5:00 PM to time of the Wake. Burial will be in the Somerford Cemetery near Sargent, NE. Memorials may be given to the family’s choice. Govier Brothers Mortuary are in charge of arrangements. Online condolences can be left at


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