Benjamen K. “Ben” Lauren

Benjamen K. “Ben” Lauren

Benjamen (Ben) Lauren was “born for this.” He reminded everyone within shouting distance of that every time the tone of the pager called him to duty. Ben was a third-generation volunteer firefighter and grew up helping and participating at the Forsyth Township Fire Station located in Gwinn, Michigan, the center of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Ben was a get-the-job done kind of guy who as a small boy began doing the chores farm kids do. He loved the haying season where a day filled with work and laughter with cousins and family would undoubtedly turn into star-filled evenings of joyful chatter under the favorite maple tree of the family farm. Ben loved to laugh and goof around, but working was his play.

Ben’s interests were plentiful, but his premiere fascination was the volunteer fire department. He and his siblings were often “on-scene” in their car seats as little babes, watching their dad. Ben enjoyed the big trucks and the flashing lights. As he matured, his fascination became determination. He joined the fire department as a cadet at age 14, certified as a firefighter at age 18, and then became a captain at age 22. He was a man of moral integrity, passion, and a work ethic that was applauded within the community. Even as a young man, Ben was a leader. He was determined to learn and succeed and took pride in his work and actions. Ben was unwavering in his ability to enjoy each day and was always willing to help a friend or stranger. He would shrug off any praise stating, “It’s just what we do. Pass it on!” His strong Christian faith was easily displayed in his actions.

Ben’s long work hours didn’t bend his smile. He was known for the joy he brought into the room when he entered. Ben entertained himself and laughed the hardest at his own “dad” jokes. He was a lover of country music and used music and songs to bare his heart. Every song had a message he would use to share his feelings. He was a teaser, a joker, and a loyal friend. He was a go getter that held a presence well beyond his young years. He had a contagious smile that drew babies to his arms and respect from his elders. Ben had a positive impact with everyone he interacted with.

Ben lived a life chock full of memories, but the unmade memories are the hardest to bear. Along with his community, fellow firefighters, friends, and close-knit family, Ben is grieved by his parents, Ron and Carla, and by his two siblings, Tori and Levi Lauren.


Donald L. Riling

Donald L. Riling (41) of Gwinn, Michigan died Saturday March 19, 1988 at K. I. Sawyer AFB hospital from injuries he sustained while fighting a mobile home fire. He was the only Forsyth Township Firefighter ever to die in the line-of-duty.

He was born November 17, 1946 in Altoona, Pennsylvania, son of Fred and Agnes Riling. He is survived by his wife Lynne, a son Mark, his parents and one brother John, of Miami, Florida. He served in the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged in 1970. He then moved to Hollywood Hills, Florida where he was a member of the Hollywood Hills Volunteer Fire Department. For the past 13 years he was a resident of Gwinn Michigan where he was employed at K.I. Sawyer AFB as a firefighter. He was also a member of the Gwinn Volunteer Fire Department, the Marquette County Firefighters Assoc., Marquette Masonic Lodge 101, Ahmed Temple Clown Unit, Kountry Korner Softball Team, Gwinn Bowling League and was voted Firefighter of the Year -1988 for Forsyth Township.

Funeral services were held in Gwinn, Michigan with members of Sawyer and Gwinn Fire Departments serving as pallbearers. Internment was at Gwinn cemetery.