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La Benz, James Francis

James Francis La Benz, 80, of Sun City, Arizona was welcomed into the Communion of Saints on Thursday, January 30, 2014.  He endured a lifetime of complications from childhood polio but was still ever present with a smile, a story, and kind words for those in his life.  He departed for Heaven where his spouse of 53 years was awaiting him.  James was born to loving parents in Columbus, NE and was the proud, eldest brother of four sisters and four brothers. Although he grew up in several states, he always considered Greeley, NE his original home.  After beginning his college career at Creighton University, he ultimately graduated from the University of Nebraska as a “Cornhusker.”  He began his professional career with First National Insurance.  In 1962, he, his wife Marilyn, and their children moved from Omaha, NE to Phoenix to help open a First National Insurance office in Arizona.  His career transitioned into state government where he served as the Assistant Budget Director for the Governor’s Executive Budget Office.  He eventually retired from state government after working over 20 years serving the citizens of Arizona.  He loved the scenery and warmth of Arizona where he built a wonderful legacy and remained until his death.  He was the proud parent and grandparent of six loving children and nine wonderful grandchildren.  He was a strong advocate for children and education.  He was very proud to have assisted all of his children in becoming college graduates.  As a past member of the Phoenix Jaycees, he helped launch the organization that is now known as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona.  He obtained his ham radio operator’s license at a young age enabling him to communicate with people all over the world.  His energies, however, were primarily focused on being the best partner to his wife, Marilyn, and the best father to his six children.  His faith life, his family, and his friends were most important to him and he served as a model of spirituality to his family and church community.  As an active parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church of Phoenix for more than 35 years, he was involved in the Men’s Club, parish council and school advisory board.  After moving to Sun City in 1996, James and Marilyn strived to be daily communicants at several Catholic parishes including St. Joachim & St. Anne, St. Clements, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  James was also an avid supporter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, serving the poor in the community.  A funeral mass and joyous celebration of James’ life will be held at 10 am on Saturday, February 15th at St. Joachim & St. Anne Catholic Church, 11625 N. 111th Ave, Sun City, AZ.  A reception will follow immediately in the parish hall.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any contributions be made in James’ name to either of the following non-profit organizations: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, PO Box 13600, Phoenix, AZ 85002, or Sun Valley Lodge senior care community, 12415 N. 103rd Ave, Sun City, AZ 85351,