In 1990, I was attending the Georgia Automatic Merchandising Council mid winter meeting at Stone Mountain Park. Ben Ginsberg, who I only knew by reputation, introduced himself and said he was starting a new industry trade journal titled, Sunbelt Vending & OCS. He asked me if I would consider being his food editor and write six columns a year for the magazine. This request was the beginning of a cherished friendship which lasted until his recent passing.
Rabbi Dr. Analia Bortz conducted Ben’s funeral and said, “He was a person who always made you feel like you were important.” For me, a young businessman just getting started in 1985, Ben became a huge role model for both my personal maturing as well as my business career.
Over the next 20 years Ben and I became more than simply business associates. We developed a relationship which most businessmen never experience. Most men in business seldom show anyone the true person inside. This wasn’t Ben. Ben became a true friend to both me and my family.
Ben was a traditionalist in every sense. He loved to talk conservative politics; we often discussed ideas to solve problems of our nation and our industry. We both had a deep respect and love for President Reagan as well as the armed forces. We had a bond of camaraderie because Ben had proudly served in the Pacific during World War II, as I did in Vietnam.
Ben was truly the “elder statesman” to the vending industry, which he loved more than anyone I have ever known. He loved to work a show floor with his good friend Dan Denman. It’s like he drew life and energy from a convention. Ben always seemed to rise to the occasion whether leading a panel discussion at a convention or being quoted on the state of our industry.
As my industry exposure grew, I was asked by Larry Eils of the National Automatic Merchandising Association to develop seminars focused on vending commissaries and food programs. Ben would often give me some of his wisdom in the form of constructive criticism. It was at these seminars that Ben gave Eils the title, “Dr. Doom,” because of his dealings with germs.
I remember two trips Ben and I took together, one to Pepi Food Service in Bainbridge, Ga. and the other to Buffalo Rock Full Line Vending in Birmingham, Ala. Because of Ben’s history in the bottling industries, both visits were like old home week or a family reunion as they shared names of former people in the soft drink industry that they had known over the years. Ben was a wealth of knowledge of the bottling, coffee service and vending industries.
For me, Ben was a true friend, role model, a man who loved his wife and children, loved a good piece of beef, enjoyed a gin on the rocks before dinner, loved his country, loved baseball, especially the Chicago White Sox (he showed me where baseball is in the Bible, “In the big inning” and “Mary drew a relief pitcher”), and loved Georgia football (for years he never missed the Florida game with his good friend Charlie Price).
A role model to many of us
He encouraged me to always be willing to give something back to the industry.
He loved his grandson, “Little Ben,” who was his namesake and stayed very active in “Little Ben’s” life.
Ben used his manual typewriter up until he retired.
He struggled with going digital and giving up film photography.
Somehow, these words don’t do justice to the man, but they are all I have along with hundreds of personal memories. I have a slogan I use that “blessed is the life which finds joy in the journey.” Ben truly was a blessed man who found joy in his journey.
Ben, you will be missed by your family, your friends, and an industry which will not be the same without you.