Spotlight on Ben Stratman
Mar 29, 2018 06:00AM ● Published by Pamela Johnson
Ben Stratman, 89, had just returned from his annual physical. “All good,” he reported cheerfully as he settled in for our first monthly “Spotlight” interview at the Bellingham Senior Center.
His family moved to Bellingham when he was 10 years old. “We never locked the front door… we played in the front yard… everybody in the neighborhood knew each other,” says Ben.
Back then, Ben’s dad owned the “Poor Farm” in Bellingham which provided food and shelter for the town’s homeless. It was a 150-acre working farm that started in the early 1900s. The family eventually sold it to the Commonwealth to make room for the new Interstate Highway 495.
“I’ve worked hard all my life,” Ben recalls. “I’ve farmed… milking cows and shoveling manure… cutting wood and burning it in the kitchen stove. We had six cows, 20 pigs and 25 chickens.”
Toward the end of World War Two, he joined the U.S. Navy and served aboard a diesel-powered submarine. Fifty-five men were in the sub, and there were no showers. “It was ripe in there,” recalls Ben, “but I couldn’t have served with a better bunch of guys.” He identified a dozen or so, by name and rank.
He worked for Atlas Oil for 30 years delivering heating oil to homes from Boston to Cape Cod. He was the commander of the VFW post in Bellingham in 1977.
Advice for living long? “If you laugh every day, there’s your medicine! I have lots of friends. Never did drugs. Social media is not for me.”
In his 89 years, Ben has seen the German passenger airship Hindenburg fly over Boston, watched five-star U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur visit Boston, owned many automobiles including a 1936 Ford, a Saab, Mercedes, Cadillac El Dorado, Buick and VW, and he has welcomed into his home an assortment of dogs: boxer, collie, German Shepard, toy fox terrier, and Doberman Pinscher.
Ben currently has a nine-year-old Siamese cat named Tom, “who follows me around like a dog. He’ll go under the covers at bedtime… and he snores!”
Ben has four children and 18 grandchildren (including great and great-great grandchildren), many live nearby. His wife passed away four years ago, at Christmas time. He has an aunt in Milford who is about to celebrate her 108th birthday. And he has more friends than you can count at the Senior Center.