Ben Neel passed away Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, at Abbott Northwestern Hospital at the age of 37.
Benjamin Steven Neel was born Oct. 6, 1982, to Steven and Bonita (Ellefloot) Neel in Mora.
Deputy Ben Neel served the Pine County Sheriff’s Office since August of 2003. Graduating from Hinckley-Finlayson High School and continuing law enforcement school at Hibbing Community College, he had been a lifelong resident of Pine County. He started his law enforcement career with the Pine County Sheriff’s Office. While serving his community, he held the School Resource Officer position at Hinckley-Finlayson High School from 2013-2015. He also became a trainer for Firearms, Taser, and Search and Rescue. In 2006, he became a SWAT Operator and had continued that mission through his career. In 2016, Ben became a K9 Handler for Chewy. Over the first 15 weeks they trained together at McDonough K-9. Through many criminal apprehensions, searches, and narcotics detections, these partners were inseparable. Chewy is also a member of the SWAT team.
Through Ben’s career with PCSO, he found the love of his life, Jen. Ben and Jen both worked for the Pine County Sheriff’s Office and had made a home in Pine County with their four wonderful children: William, Owen, Gabriel and Hunter. Recently, they purchased a home closer to work and school and have been making it their own.
On Oct. 25, 2019, Ben was in South Dakota, hunting. That morning as Ben walked into breakfast he stated he didn’t feel good and collapsed with what presented itself as a seizure. Ben went by ground ambulance to the local hospital. Doctors there found a mass on his brain and he immediately was transferred to another hospital for further testing. He remained stable during this time. After multiple tests and doctor’s appointments, it was determined that he had two tumors that would require extensive operations. Ben underwent his first surgery on Dec. 11, 2019, to remove one tumor behind his right eye. This surgery lasted about seven-and-half hours.
On Dec. 31, 2019, Jennifer had a care conference with Ben’s medical team. Ben had suffered a massive brain stem stroke as a complication of his surgery. The team wanted to give him ample time for recovery after surgery, and they had. They had done everything that medicine could do, but the damage from the stroke was too much.
Ben was a donor. Abbott Northwestern Hospital held a nice ceremony in his honor. They did this in honor of the gifts that he will be able to give. The age and gender of the recipients are known. Ben had a servant’s heart and he had done that to the very end. As I will be seeing you soon, my love. I can feel you. I can sense you. Well done, my good and faithful one. Well done.
At 7:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, my husband gained his wings...he is with our Lord. He was at peace...he was loved and we will be together again soon... I love you till my last breath, my soulmate, my heart, my guardian angel.
Ben is survived by his loving wife Jennifer Neel; sons William Runyan, Owen Neel, Gabriel Neel and Hunter Neel; Canine Partner Chewy; father Steven Neel; sister Alaina (Jed) Hollenkamp; brother Jared (Priscilla) Neel; father-in-law and mother-in-law David and Rev. Vicki VanderVegt; brother-in-law Matthew (Camille) VanderVegt; Pine County Sheriff’s Department; many other relatives, family and friends.
He is preceded in death by his mother Bonita Neel; maternal and paternal grandparents; Aunt Betty Greenlee.
Pastor Joel Preston will officiate funeral services for Ben at 12 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, at the Hinckley/Finlayson High School Auditorium in Hinckley. A time of visitation and reviewal is planned from 4-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17 at the Swanson Funeral Chapel in Pine City and also one hour prior to the service at the high school auditorium. The interment will take place in Hilltop Cemetery in Pine City.
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to: Funeral and Cremation Service of Pine City – Swanson Chapel. www.FuneralAndCremationService.com