May 30, 1923 – Aug. 23, 2013
Ben French passed away on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 at his home in Davis.
He was born in Hanford on May 30, 1923, the descendant of early California pioneers. His paternal grandfather was part owner, along with J.B. Anderson, of the Davisville Cash Store, the predecessor to Davis Lumber and Hardware, and his father attended Davis schools during the early years of the 20th century. Struggling through the Great Depression, Ben’s parents lived in several rural communities in the San Joaquin delta as they sought to make a living. Ben learned to hunt and fish and, as an only child, found comfort and companionship in the natural environment. His love of the outdoors remained strong throughout his life.
After graduating from Rio Vista High School in June 1941, Ben worked as a clerk for the Bank of Rio Vista and later as an iceman for the Union Ice Company to earn money to attend college. He was able to enroll at UC Berkeley in the fall of 1942 and entered the Army Reserve program. He was called to active duty in March 1943, training as a paratrooper, and fought in France and Germany with the 82nd Airborne Division. Upon his return home in January 1946, Ben enrolled again at Berkeley under the GI Bill, completing his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural economics, the latter in 1953.
Ben joined the faculty at Michigan State University in 1953 and in 1959 he returned to California as an associate professor of agricultural economics at UC Davis. His leadership was instrumental in building the Ag Econ department to the top ranked program it is today. He was a dedicated teacher at both the undergraduate and graduate levels; many of his former students now hold prominent positions in universities, businesses, and government. His pioneering research is noted for its depth and innovativeness and has received numerous awards and recognitions. In 1981, Ben was selected as a Fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association, the highest recognition given by the AAEA, with at most four selected annually.
Ben met his future wife and lifelong love, Mary Loscutoff, at a Student Cooperative dance at Berkeley in the spring of 1946; in December 1947 they married. They had three children: Susan (1950), Ben Jr (1953), and Stan (1957). Theirs was a marriage of enduring love, friendship, and devotion to family. They enjoyed their world travels, camping trips, and most of all, fishing. They had a long, healthy, and happy life together, and Ben passed away peacefully with Mary at his side.
In addition to his wife Mary, Ben is survived by his daughter Susan French Weeks; sons Ben and Stan; son-in-law Ed Weeks; daughter-in-law Wendy Chan French; granddaughters Aubree French and Gillian Weeks; and great-granddaughter Bristol Bullivant.
At Ben’s request, there will not be a memorial service. Remembrances may be posted with Wiscombe Funeral Home at www.wiscombefuneral.com.