Benjamin D. Craig, Jr., 87, well-known banker and community leader, passed away August 5, 2016, after a brief battle with cancer.
Ben was the youngest of five children born to Benjamin D. Craig, Sr. and Orpha (Cox) Craig, in Hockerville, Okla. He grew up and attended school in Baxter Springs, Kan. Much of his free time was spent playing sports, particularly baseball, including pitching for a popular regional team known as the Baxter Whiz Kids. After high school, he spent the next four years attending the University of Kansas with detours to pursue his minor league baseball career, playing for the NY Yankees and St. Louis Browns.
In 1950, during the Korean War, Ben enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Tripoli, Libya, for 18 months. Shortly after returning to the States, he married Evadean Talbot and they spent the remainder of his years in the Air Force stationed at Sewart Air Force Base near Nashville, Tenn. He was honorably discharged from the service in 1954 as an E-5 Tech Sergeant. Ben was a proud American and valued the sacrifices made by those who served in the Armed Forces.
After leaving the service, he accepted a position with the Chamber of Commerce in Cassville, Mo., where he was hired as their first paid Manager. In 1956, Ben accepted a position with the Kansas City, Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the family moved to the Kansas City metro. Ben began his banking career with Exchange State Bank in KCK in 1959 and after four years, was hired by a newly-chartered bank in Overland Park, Metcalf Bank. Beginning on Jan. 1, 1964, he served as President of the Bank for 35 years and then as Chairman of the Board until 2007. After the sale of the Bank in 2007 to Central Bancompany, Ben continued to office at the Bank, serve on its Board of Directors, and remained as Chairman Emeritus until his death.
Ben always expressed his appreciation and affection for his associates and friends he made through his banking relationships.
Ben was a dedicated public servant and gave freely of his time. He served as President, Chairman, and as an officer of numerous charitable and service organizations’ boards, community development committees and political campaigns too numerous to list here. He was recognized as an influential leader on a local and state level and was bestowed with many honors and awards. He was instrumental in the establishment of much of the area’s landmark infrastructure, including Johnson County Community College, Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Deana Rose Farmstead and was a founding member of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, to name a few. He was a champion of economic development in Johnson County and throughout the State of Kansas.
If Ben committed to something, he gave it his all as was recently witnessed by his celebration of 52 years of perfect attendance in the Overland Park Rotary Club. He hoped that his legacy would include being remembered as a contributor to the outstanding quality of life enjoyed in the community.
For those interested, a complete listing of his accomplishments will be posted at the Neptune Society where visitors may also leave remembrances and condolences.
Survivors include daughters, Denise Koonse (Charles), Kellee Hearst (Rex), granddaughters, Amanda Lubiewski (Michael), Kelsey Houchen (Andrew), and great-granddaughters, Abigail and Emily Lubiewski. Ben also leaves his friend and companion of the last 10 years, Vivian Sirratt.
Ben was preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Evadean.
A memorial service honoring Ben will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. The family will receive visitors before the service beginning at noon. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Ben and Evadean Craig Scholarship Fund in care of the Johnson County Community College Foundation, 12345 College Boulevard, Overland Park, Kan.; or to Olathe Hospice House in care of OMCCF, 20375 W. 151st, Suite 363, Olathe, Kansas.