Killaloe -- Although he valued simplicity and the grass roots connections of a smile and was most often seen on foot on the streets of Killaloe, Peter Benner’s influence brought Killaloe to the world and vice versa through two of his most beloved community projects, CHCR Radio and Bonnechere Community Internet.
Friends were stunned by the news of his sudden passing on September 30 while visiting his recently widowed mother in his hometown of Port Colborne, just two days after his 65th birthday.
A graduate of the Niagara College Journalism Program, Peter came to Renfrew County almost 30 years ago, first living at Morninglory Farm and then moving into Killaloe to become a mainstay of the village. His on-air and behind-the-scenes efforts on behalf of CHCR and his helping presence as a member of the Lions Club, as well as his participation in countless village events, gave him joy and made him countless friends. His building on Lake Street provided housing and refuge for newcomers or people in need of a home. The former harness shop building also became the location for Garth’s Kitchen and the radio station itself. He jokingly referred to his historic Lake Street structure as “the building that owns me.”
Killaloe tie-dye artist Rri Povey knew Peter since they both lived at Morninglory as newcomers to the community.
“Peter gave much time and energy to many community projects, asking little or nothing in return. He liked to help people, especially if they were down and out. He was genuinely a good man through and through.”
She recalls Peter volunteering to drive her to hospital in Ottawa to give birth to her son when her own vehicle was too unreliable for the trip.
Peter’s sense of humour and his love for puns endeared him to young and old. He was a familiar sight in his pancake costume promoting the monthly fundraising Lion’s pancake breakfast. He tamed and fed stray kittens and found homes for them. His respect for the environment extended to rescuing reusable materials from the landfill. He was part of a team that annually collected trash from roadsides and ditches, sorting the returnables and donating all the proceeds to the radio station. In winter, he carried a snow shovel with him. Bartender, clean-up crew, recycling helper, Ride Share driver, gardener, Bingo helper - Peter was always willing to step in where needed.
As DJ Peanut Butter, he hosted Random Radio on Friday evenings which heavily promoted local music and local musicians and Lions Roar on Saturdays featuring Lions Club events and news.
As word of his passing spread, friends and community members stopped by the memorial table, adorned with flickering candles and smouldering sage, outside his residence at 14 Lake Street to add their condolences and memories to be forwarded to Peter’s mother. Peter is survived by several cousins and predeceased by his sister Janet (1984) and his father David who died only months previously.
The Killaloe Community Celebration of Life for Peter will be held October 24th from 1 to 4 p.m. at 14 Lake Street. The street will be closed off for this memorial and there will be a sharing of free lunch, Stone Soup in honour of Peter’s community spirit (from Garth’s Kitchen) and live music hosted by CHCR on the back deck, as well as memorial tributes from Community Resource Centre, Killaloe Friendship Club and the Lions Club.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own stone, painted or written on, as a tribute to Peter whose Biblical name means ‘the Rock.”. The stones will be spread throughout the community and shared with his mother. Donations for the memorial costs and meal will be appreciated and any surplus forwarded on to Peter’s mother to be donated in Peter’s name as she wishes.
As per Peter’s request, cremation has taken place in his hometown. Memorial remembrances to the charity of one’s choice would be appreciated by the family. Funeral arrangements are entrusted to the DAVIDSON FUNERAL HOME, 135 Clarence St., Port Colborne.
Peter, you will live on in the many fond memories of your adopted community.
Johanna Zomers, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader