Loss of a true statesman: Former state Rep. Ben Ewing dead after being struck by car

By Lynn R. Parks

Former state Rep. Benjamin Ewing was killed Tuesday afternoon when he was struck by a car in front of his house near Bridgeville. The retired state policeman was 84.
Delaware State Police said that Ewing was standing in the westbound lane of the Federalsburg Road at around 5:15 p.m. when he was hit by a 2016 Mazda being driven by Janet L. Bradley, 60, of Bridgeville. He was thrown onto the shoulder of the road and was pronounced dead at the scene by Sussex County paramedics.
Bradley was not injured. The state police are continuing their investigation of the accident.
Late on Tuesday, Gov. Jack Markell extended sympathies to the members of the Ewing family, including Ewings three children: Benjamin, Georgetown; Rick, Seaford; and Penny Pritchett, Bridgeville.
Its hard to think about Bridgeville without thinking about the impact Ben Ewing had on that community for decades, Markell said in a statement. From his service in the Marine Corps, to his career with the state police, to his time as an elected representative, Bens career was one of service to his country, state, and the people of the 35th District. Ben and his family will be in my thoughts and prayers tonight and in the tough days to come.
State Sen. Bryant Richardson also issued a statement. Ben Ewing was one of the most thoughtful men I knew, he said. The Ben I knew had a gentle spirit, but I know that he had a tough and determined dedication to do what was right for his state and his nation.
Speaking by phone Wednesday morning, state Rep. Dave Wilson said that Delaware has lost a true statesman.
My heart goes out to the family, said Wilson, who holds Ewings former seat. Ben was such a great friend to so many people. There were so many things that he did for the First State.
Wilson said that Ewing was always willing to offer guidance. He was my mentor, he said. I would call him whenever I had a question and he was always so helpful.
Richardson said that Ewing had recently asked him to stop by and talk with him. But now I will never have that chance, Richardson said. I know I missed a great opportunity to learn from one of Delawares great leaders.

A lifetime of service

A native of Rehoboth, Ewing graduated from Rehoboth Beach High School in 1950. He joined the Marine Corps in 1950 and served until 1953, including 14 months in Korea during the Korean War.
He joined the Delaware State Police in 1958 and had a 20-year career there, including 13 years as an instructor at the State Police Academy. He retired in 1978 as a lieutenant colonel and deputy superintendent of the force.
After retirement, he served as director of the Methodist Manor House in Seaford from 1979 to 1983 and then as a salesman with Adams Feed, Bridgeville, from 1983 to 1987.
After his good friend and neighbor Brad Barnes, a member of the House of Representatives from Bridgeville, died suddenly in 1987, Ewing was asked by the Republican Party to run in an emergency election to fill the seat.
They asked me two times and I said no two times, Ewing said in an interview in 2008. He told his wife, Pat, that, like Gideon did in the Bible, he would set a test to determine if he should run. In the Old Testament, Gideon put a fleece outside and told God that if it was wet one morning and dry the next, he would accept the charge to lead Israels army.

I told Pat that if they asked me to run a third time, I would say yes, Ewing said. It would be a new experience, and we would make new friends. Sure enough, when representatives of then Gov. Mike Castles office called a third time, Ewing agreed to enter the race. He won, defeating Democrat Ken McDowell, Bridgeville, and after that won all 10 races he was in, four of them with no opponent.
In the House, he served as chairman of the Public Safety Committee and was a member of the Homeland Security Committee. He was given the nickname Gentle Ben, the name of a character in a childrens book and a 1960s television show, because of his height as well as his gentle demeanor. In the 2008 interview, Ewing said that he was proud of that nickname.
That name stuck the whole time I was in the House, he said. I always thought it was a nice compliment.
As a legislator, Ewing supported the right of citizens to carry guns. Before his final day in the House, he was presented with the Defender of Freedom award from the National Rifle Association and the Delaware Patriot award from the Delaware Sportsmens Club.
He was also adamantly pro-life, or not pro-death, as he called his stand. He was known to vote against state budgets because they contained funding for Planned Parenthood.
Ewing counted among his accomplishments the bill that established the states 911 centers and the bill that led to the states enhanced 911 system.

Retirement

Ewing announced his retirement from the House in June 2008. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was told that he had two years to live. But on July 30 of that year, he underwent a new surgical procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. After two subsequent checkups, he was pronounced cancer free. At the time, Ewing did not hesitate to call his recovery a miracle. He said that he had just one regret: that he had retired prematurely from the House. If I had known that I was going to get a miracle, I wouldnt have done it, he said. Throughout his time as legislator, Ewing kept stacks of Free Hug Coupons and was quick to hand out the small yellow cards. He always liked to tell women how pretty they were, something that he made reference to in his retirement speech in front of the House. If I have said to any lady staffer or lady representative that she is the prettiest woman I have ever seen, I want you to know that I really meant it, he said. Also in his farewell speech to the House, Ewing quoted one of his favorite American heroes, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur, a World War II general, led U.S. forces in the Korean War in 1950 and 1951. Ewing reminded the members of the House of MacArthurs farewell speech to the U.S. Congress, in which MacArthur said, Old soldiers never die; they just fade away. And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. I am like MacArthur, Ewing told his fellow Delaware state representatives in 2008. I will now start fading away. Check the Stars website: seafordstar.com for information on the services. Caption In this 2008 photo, former state Rep. J. Benjamin Ewing sits in one of the two offices he has at his home near Bridgeville. Behind him is part of his extensive political button collection, something he started before he entered politics. Ewing, 84, was struck by a car and killed Tuesday afternoon, in front of his Bridgeville-area home.

Photo by Lynn R. Parks

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