ST. PAUL, Minn. — Robert Francis Benner, 81, passed away Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, after a lengthy illness. He was born April 11, 1939, in Sterling, Illinois, to Virgil and Doris Benner. The family then moved to Owensboro in 1952, where he attended and graduated from Owensboro Catholic High School in 1957. Bob joined the service and served in the 3rd Marine Air Wing for four years. During that time, he married Jane Pence from Knottsville.

Bob and Jane then returned to Owensboro, and he graduated from Brescia College. He then achieved master and doctorate degrees in international economic development from The Patterson School of Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky. He served as an industrial development officer for the United Nations on projects in Mauritius, Ghana, and East Africa.

They returned to Frankfort in 1972 for the birth of their only son. Bob then served as a special assistant for economic development under Gov. Wendal Ford. Bob then took a position with the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development as a deputy commissioner and served as key advisor to Gov. Rudolph Perpich. In 1995, he served as director of governmental affairs with Northwest Airlines.

He was a lover of sports cars, an avid reader with a fondness for Hemingway and bullfighting. He was charismatic and when around him, family and friends were charmed with his humor and conversation.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Jane Pence Benner; his parents, Virgil and Doris Benner; his brother, Dick Benner; and his sister, Sharon Benner.

He is survived by a son, Erik Benner of Habit, granddaughter Elise Benner; and companion Bonnie Burt of St. Paul, Minnesota.

A celebration of life is planned for April 11 with interment at Resurrection Cemetery.