Ben M. Bynes
July 16, 1969 - February 21, 2023
36 year resident of Santa Cruz
Ben Bynes, beloved member of our community, father, firefighter, fisherman, farmer, and friend,
passed away on February 21, 2023 at the age of 53.
Ben was born in San Francisco, son of Katherine McCleary and Joseph Bynes Jr. and grandson
of Jessie Mae and Joseph Bynes Sr. of Swainsboro, GA, and Blanche and John McCleary of
Baltimore, MD. Ben lived in Berkeley until he was 3 and then moved with his mom to Palo Alto,
where he loved playing sports, listening to reggae music and raising hamsters. There his two
step-sisters, Michelle and Cheyenne, joined the family.
Ben graduated from the John Woolman Quaker Boarding School in Nevada City, CA, where he
was part of a large and loving community of friends with whom he remained connected
throughout his life. The summer after high school graduation Ben spent the summer in Auroville,
in the south of India, living and working with other Woolman friends. He went on to study at the
University of California Santa Cruz, where he double-majored in Biology and Environmental
Studies and graduated in 1992. Ben, nicknamed Ben-Zone by his teammates, was a proud
member of the1991 UCSC Ultimate Frisbee National Championship team.
In 1996, after working for a year as a schoolteacher in Richmond, CA, Ben joined the Santa
Cruz City Fire Department and worked there until he retired in 2020. Ben loved being a
firefighter and being of service to others. In his 24 years with SCFD, Ben’s contributions to the
community included not only his long tenure as an engineer but also as a paramedic, rescue
swimmer, and PWC and Fireboat operator.
Before Ben joined the Fire Department, his daughter Chloe was born. In 1998 he married Santa
Cruz PD Officer Wendy Ramm, and together they had two children, Bennett and Bella. Ben was
a passionate father. He loved his children as babies, youngsters, teenagers, and young adults.
Ben’s greatest adventures were with his kids. They enjoyed surfing, camping, fishing,
snorkeling, traveling and planting blueberry bushes and trees in Georgia. For the short time he
was in his grandchildren Averitt and Vivienne’s lives, Ben was a thoroughly delighted grandpa.
Drawn to his Georgia roots, in 2009 Ben bought 91-acres of open farmland near his Uncles
Hubert and Lavern. Ben visited Georgia frequently and after retirement spent half his time on his
land farming, producing blueberries that he shared with local jam makers, planting 120
pomegranate trees, and raising specialty South Poll cattle. Last summer he created Open Heart
Farms LLC and was looking forward to growing his farming operations as a community
In 2014 Ben met his partner Elizabeth Patterson, with whom he shared his life and love of
community, family, close friends, the ocean and the earth. They traveled together all over
California, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and to his other home in Georgia.
Ben was a big, warm, funny, deep man, beautiful inside and out. He loved surfing, music,
fishing, telling stories, cooking, making bread, sharing the food he made, growing trees, bushes
and grass, his dogs, cows and chickens, and people anywhere and everywhere he went.
Nobody cared more for others and their overall well-being than Benny. No matter who you
were, Ben would provide you with a well-deserved nickname and, more importantly, give you his
undivided attention and all the heartfelt love and support you never knew you needed. We will
all miss his big laugh, big hugs and big spirit!
Ben is survived by his beloved partner, Liz Patterson, mother Katherine, step-dad Daniel
Wenger, his other mothers Susan and Nancy, children Chloe Kersten (Justin), Bennett Bynes,
and Bella Mae Bynes, grandchildren Averitt and Vivienne Kersten, siblings Joey, Valerie,
Pamela, Robyn, Michelle, Cheyenne, Sheila, Ezra, Michael, and Jeremy, a host of aunts,
uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, his firefighter family and numerous friends wherever he went.
A celebration of Ben’s life will take place at Twin Lakes Church, Friday, March 24, at 2 pm.
As Ben would say, “Everybody’s welcome!”.