Ben Steele

Recent Posts

Prairie Lights: The pleasure of their company

Joe Med

I’ve spent the past 10 days or so immersed in Montana history, working on a project that I hope will bear fruit soon. As part of that immersion, I’ve done interviews with people who’ve had front-row seats — when they weren’t down on the floor, in the thick of things — on some of the most momentous events in Montana’s history over the past 50 years. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Waiting for another chance to remember Rankin

School District 2 passed up an opportunity last year to name a new middle school after Jeannette Rankin, opting instead for Bataan Death March survivor and longtime Billings artist Ben Steele. The vote was understandable, especially since it gave the community a chance to bestow one last honor on Steele, who died in September. But there will be other schools, and other buildings, and one can only hope that Rankin will be remembered the next time a naming opportunity comes up. Rankin, a Missoula native, not only was the first woman elected to Congress, she was the only woman able to cast a vote in Congress for the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote. A new article in the Washington Post reminds us that Rankin sacrificed her political career twice to vote against world wars. Continue Reading →

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On the death of Ben Steele, sadness, awe and gratitude


Should we be mourning the death of Ben Steele or celebrating the miracle that he lived for 98 years and 269 days? I can’t say I knew Steele well, but I’m reasonably certain he would have favored a celebration. And I’m absolutely sure that he would rather we were happy than not. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Red Lodge gallery owner moves to downtown Billings


After operating an art gallery in Red Lodge for three years, Tyler Murphy was ready for a change. One option was to expand into the second floor of the building that housed his Montana Gallery, at 22 N. Broadway. But most of his friends lived in Billings, so a move there was also a possibility. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Prairie Lights: Our schools deserve to have noble names


Maybe Billings School District 2 should adopt the naming system used in some cities and simply assign numbers to new schools. The soon-to-be-named building on the West End would thus be known as Public Middle School No. 6. God forbid it should be named after anyone whose life might serve as a shining example to generations of young students. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Class of ’64 makes donation to ‘Save Our Murals’ at Senior


Progress is being made in the effort to preserve more than 100 murals painted on the walls of Billings Senior High School. Representatives of the class of 1964, which had its 50th reunion this summer, were planning to present a check for $1,755 to Principal Dennis Holmes Thursday afternoon. (more…) Continue Reading →

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This Veterans Day, save your thanks for the real heroes


Every year on Veterans Day, I cringe at the knowledge that well-meaning people are going to wallpaper Facebook and Twitter with heartfelt tributes to the heroes who have served our country. I cringe because as a veteran myself, I know the truth about the average military personnel. Most of the people I met in the military were good people. They showed up and did their job. They didn’t cause problems. They were generally a pleasure to work with. Continue Reading →

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Volunteers working to protect, preserve Senior High murals


To mark the 75th anniversary of Billings Senior High School, a volunteer committee has launched a “Save Our Murals” campaign to restore and protect the iconic artwork adorning walls and stairwells around the school. “Just think of them not being on the walls anymore,” Kristeen Keup said. “That’s just not possible.” (more…) Continue Reading →

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Book Review: In the Philippines, a hero amid the horrors

Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman, 2009. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 464 pages, $30. 

The central character in this history is Ben Steele, the Bataan survivor and artist who, now in his mid-90s, lives in Billings. Given that I greatly admire Steele and have written about him on several occasions, why did it take me four years to start reading this book? (more…) Continue Reading →

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