Ben Everett Mercer was born on November 2, 1936 in Kansas City, Missouri to the union of Ralph James Mercer and Laura Jameson Mercer Frazier. Ben’s beloved grandparents, Dan and Corrine Jameson; parents, stepparents, Katie Mercer and Matthew Frazier; three brothers, Clifford Mercer, Sylvester Mercer and Floyd Frazier; and one sister, Deborah Frazier and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins preceded him in death.
Ben lived in Kansas City, Missouri his entire life. Fondly remembering the days of growing up in the community of Rosedale in the small house at the end of West 39th Street on the back side of Rainbow. A community that was tight knit where everyone knew your family, which made getting away with mischievousness difficult. The family moved to a drafty Flat on 14th and Cherry and later to a “three level” duplex on 28th and Park. The last resident was referenced by the family with endearment as the Big House! “In one stop, I can check on my Mama and Matthew, Big Daddy and Mama Corrine”. He knew his mother and grandmother would know when he was coming to visit before he would, and have a lemon pound cake or monkey bread ready for him, not to mention a hot meal of such as greens and oxtails, cornbread with ice cold buttermilk and water. As a family, we knew where we would gather for every holiday. Almost a family reunion every weekend at the “Big House”.
During the formative school years, Ben and his brothers could have been considered early entrepreneurs. Ralph, Ben’s brother, shared taking advantage of the cooking expertise of their mother and grandmother. They would sell delicious fried pies to other students for .25 cents on the playground before class started! When the brothers were called to the principal’s office, not knowing many students had stopped purchasing school lunch for a fried pie, the sale of fried pies came to an abrupt end! A product of the Kansas City Public Schools, Ben attended R.T. Coles Vocational High School. Upon the closure of R. T. Coles, Ben attended and graduated from Lincoln High School. Ben was noted and recognized for his academic excellence and gifted athleticism. These recognitions provided Ben the opportunity to attend (HBCU) Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri on an Athletic Football Scholarship. While playing on the LU Blue Tigers Football team, he excelled at the position of Fullback and Punter. As a right-handed person, Ben would punt left-footed. He held the punting record for many years for LU. On the campus of LU, Ben was initiated in Alpha Psi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Ben graduated from LU with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with a Minor in Biology. It was while at LU, Ben met and married Monteel Victoria Wilson (deceased November 2015) of Hayti, Missouri. To this union, three daughters were born, Cheryl, Gina and Benita. After a brief stay in Springfield, Illinois, they settled in Kansas City, Missouri to raise their family. Ben also received his M. Ed. in Adult Education from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
Ben was hired by the City of Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreations Department. He served diligently for 25 years until his retirement. Ben was one of six African American men in the Professional Recreation Division of 65 employees. He diligently served as Director for Wayne Minor, Garrison, Gregg (Gregg-Klice), and Marlborough Community Centers. During his tenure with Parks and Recreation, Ben was able to share his many talents through coaching and teaching and from Tutoring to Visual Arts to Tennis to Fencing, making a difference in the lives of those who were serviced by the centers and their programs.
Ben was an award-winning Champion of the sport of Fencing. He was a master of the Foil, Epee and Sabre Swords in Team and Individual Event Bouts. His many championships in the Sabre and Epee Bouts did not go unnoticed. Ben served as the United States of America Ambassador to the USA Fencing Delegation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. Ben was proud to consult with the world teams in Fencing while representing the African American Fencers who were under-represented in Fencing. Ben enjoyed and excelled at Hunting, Chess, Tennis, and showing his Award-Winning Pure-Bred German Shepherds with the Kansas City K-9 Club. But Ben’s past time passion was in his visual art.
Over the course of a brilliant creative career, Ben has compiled an impressive list of achievements in Visual Art and Photography. His work has appeared in several publications including Focus Kansas City, Photographer’s Forum, Best of Photography Annual, and Endless Journey’s. The Artists Magazine honored Ben as one of “Artists Magazine” 1993 Top 200 Portrait Artists in the US and the Municipal Art Commission Talented Ten. His exclusive body of work, “The Vietnamese Among Us” is a unique photographic documentary of the Vietnamese community in Kansas City, Missouri. Gallery showings of his art and photography include Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, The National Traveling Exhibit Art for Health in Washington, D. C., The Portfolio Gallery and the Old Court House Gallery in St. Louis, Missouri, The Kansas City Jazz Museum, The Kansas City Airport Terminal and Atlanta Life Insurance Company in Atlanta, Georgia and many others. Ben has work in the permanent collections of the Norman Gallery at Johnson County Community College and the University of Kansas Preservation Alliance and several private collections. Ben was a member of the Kansas City Artist Coalition.
Ben would say he learned from the best, referencing his grandfather, Dan Jameson, a Roundhouse Railroad man. “I draw for the pleasure of drawing. To see something come to life by using a pencil and paying attention to detail is a thrill. I come from a family of raw talent. Just doing what comes naturally.”
Ben leaves to cherish his memory daughters, Cheryl Mercer Davis, Gina R. Mercer, Benita Mercer Brown (Michael), of Kansas City, Missouri. His three granddaughters, Chloe Davis of Kansas City, Missouri, LaShawn Davis Wilkerson (Randall) of Burbank, California and Erin Brown of Kansas City, Missouri. His two grandsons, Lloyd Brown of Blue Springs, Missouri and Brandon Brown of Kansas City, Missouri. Two great-granddaughters, Leila Ann Brown and Kylee Rachelle Brown of Blue Springs, Missouri. Two brothers, Ralph Mercer (Lydia) and Ronald Frazier (Kathy) of Kansas City, Missouri and one sister, Patricia Mercer Dudley of Kansas City, Missouri and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Service will be Saturday, August 8, 2020 3 pm at Watkins Heritage Chapel visitation 2- 3 pm Alpha Phi Alpha service will be at 2:30 pm
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