Cover photo for Wilhelm E. Benker's Obituary
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1935 Wilhelm 2024

Wilhelm E. Benker

December 5, 1935 — March 24, 2024

Moulton Texas

Wilhelm "Bill" or "Tex" Ernst Benker, 88, of Moulton, Texas, passed away on March 24, 2024. Born on December 5, 1935, in Weissenstadt, Germany, to Christian and Alma Benker, he moved with his family to Fürth, Germany in 1939. 

Bill’s early childhood in Fürth, near Nürnberg, occurred in the setting of World War II Germany. One of his earliest memories was secretly tuning into the BBC channel on his father's radio, which was illegal under the Nazi regime, and discovering the big band sound of Glenn Miller. This was the beginning of a lifelong love of big band music, and he later played the upright bass in a jazz band in Houston.

Bill and his family were fortunate to survive the war, though he experienced and overcame hardships that shaped his perspective throughout his life. In 1950, at age 14, Bill began his apprenticeship as a tool and die maker. After passing his state exam in 1954, he became a Journeyman Tool and Die Maker at the age of 18. 

After a friendship grew from Bill's encounter with U.S. Army Soldier Ralph Heald at an on-base English language class, Ralph sponsored Bill's immigration to the United States in 1956. Upon arriving in the U.S., Bill worked in the machine tool and automotive industry in New Hampshire. His career then took him across the Midwest, Australia, Europe, and eventually to Houston, where he met Lou Manchester. Lou helped Bill find his first job in Houston and became a lifelong friend and mentor to Bill and his family. 

In the early part of his career, Bill worked as a machinist, tool & die maker, draftsman, and designer. He then worked as a production and plant manager for various oil field companies including Brown Oil Tools, M & J Valve Company, and Hughes Oil Tools. He was awarded several patents in oil tool design. In 1999 Bill retired as Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing at Baker Hughes.

En-route to Germany in 1963, while transferring by helicopter from Newark to Idlewild airport (now JFK) via the Pan Am building, a young lady who was also traveling from Houston to Europe sat down next to Bill. He had met the love of his life, Geraldine ‘Jeri’ Billingsley. Bill and Jeri were married on July 31, 1965, and had two sons whom they raised in Houston & Huntsville. Believing in the importance of education through experience & hands-on learning in addition to formal training, Bill spent a lot of time teaching his sons practical life skills. As a family they spent many weekends and holidays at their ranch outside of Moulton, which they acquired in 1974, where they took down old structures and built new fences, buildings, and barns. Shortly after acquiring the ranch, Bill and Jeri met the Sustr family, who became their lifelong friends and cattle partners.

Bill and Jeri traveled the world in retirement, visiting every continent including the Antarctic and the North Pole. They built a house on their ranch and entertained friends and family with Bill’s gourmet cuisine and the beautiful scenery surrounding them. Bill was a wonderful chef, honing his skills in retirement, with some of his signature dishes including oysters Rockefeller, spaetzle, potato dumplings, wiener schnitzel, gumbo, crepes, and pecan pie using fresh pecans from trees on their property. With Jeri’s encouragement, Bill wrote several books about his amazing life story, highlighting his early childhood during World War II, his career, and worldwide travels. Bill will be remembered for his storytelling, his commanding presence, and the mischievous twinkle in his eye.

Bill is preceded in death by his parents Christian and Alma (Reidelbach) Benker and his wife Geraldine ‘Jeri’ (Billingsley) Benker. He is survived by his children Wilhelm ‘Bill’ Benker (Amy), David Benker, and grandchildren Alexandra, Shirah, Robert, and Arden. He is also survived by his family in Germany including his brother Christian Benker (Gerhilde), his nieces Bettina Deutel and Birgitt Lichthardt and their children.

Private services will be held at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to Agrisafe Network (

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