Cover photo for Ben Billingslea's Obituary
Ben Billingslea Profile Photo
1944 Ben 2015

Ben Billingslea

July 17, 1944 — November 26, 2015

Not everyone can live their passion, Ben Billingslea did. Ben's life began on July 17, 1944, in the presence of his mother, Maxine. His father, Gordon, an Army soldier in World War II ended his deployment and met Ben 18 months later. The family, along with Ben's half brother Max, started their journey in Shamrock, Texas. Very early in Ben's life he was introduced to a life-long love - the kingdom of the four-legged friends. Being horseback by the age of 4 led him to the life of a cowboy, migrating from Texas to New Mexico, and eventually to Arizona. Prior to his journey to Arizona, Ben earned a certification at the Graham School in Garnett, Kan., learning the fundamental skills of a cattleman, but his education in the cattle industry was primarily from his mentor and father, Gordon. In 1967, an unlikely combination occurred. Ben, a cowboy, and Claudia Mitchell, a nurse, met at a horse sale in Prescott. After their lengthy courtship of two months, the two married and began 48 years of totally unpredictable and blessed years together. Two more blessings, a daughter, Dixie Jo, and a son, Beau, completed their little family. The life of a cowboy does not come without struggles. New frontiers looked promising, and Ben- being a risk taker - left no stone unturned. The early day businesses included Ben's Corral (a boarding and feed shop) in Wickenburg and the Big Corral (a day ride and guiding business) at Vallecito Lake, Colo. During that time, Claudia continued nursing until 1978 when the couple purchased Ray's Saddlery from Ray Bybee in Wickenburg and renamed it Ben's Saddlery. The two worked the saddle shop until they sold it in 1988. After the sale of the saddle shop, Ben and Claudia turned to city life in Phoenix to help grow a marketing business. Then in 1997, they found the back gate of Wickenburg open to them. Along with their friends, Dr. Jim Lytle and wife Chris, the Forepaugh Cattle Company was purchased from Earl Billingslea's family. With operations continuing today, this was the fruition of Ben's passions and dreams born in that young Texas boy. Along with his many business ventures, Ben was active in the community and with the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce. He was also president of the Senior Saddle Club, an active member for many years and board member of Desert Caballeros, and a member of the Arizona Cowpunchers' Association. Ben's legacy continues to live through the hearts of his family and friends. He is survived by Claudia; daughter Dixie Jo, granddaughter Rikki Jo Chavarria and grandson Cole Chavarria of Glendale; son Beau and wife Barbra Billingslea of Forepaugh and grandson Austin Billingslea of Phoenix. A celebration of life and reception will be shared at Coffinger Park in Wickenburg at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, family and friends share in memory of Ben through the Arizona Cowpunchers Crisis Fund, c/o Mike McFarland, 5295 N. Dave Ringfield Rd., Rimrock, AZ 86335.
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