Tim Benjamin will be remembered as someone dedicated to shining a light on issues affecting Minnesota’s disability community. He also championed the rights of people with disabilities. Benjamin, who worked at Access Press for more than two decades, died July 11. He was 69 and lived in Arden Hills.
His death saddened those who had followed his health challenges since 2019, and had cheered on his progress.
“Tim Benjamin was a real asset to the disability community,” said Access Press Board Chairman Joel Ulland. “He had an ability to connect with everyone he met and use the power of the newspaper to make positive changes for people with disabilities. He will be missed.”
During the summer of 1974, Benjamin sustained a spinal cord injury in a diving accident and began life as a quadriplegic.
The story of how he met Access Press founding editor Charlie Smith Jr. and became involved in the newspaper and public affairs is one of serendipity. The Benjamin family banked at the same bank where Charlie Smith’s father, Bill Smith, was vice president.
The sons met in 1975 while both were in rehabilitation at the University of Minnesota. In a 2002 Access Press interview, Benjamin recalled thinking of Charlie Smith as “the veteran” and the fellow who seemed to know everything about “how this disability thing worked.”
In the mid-1990s Benjamin decided to get active in disability community issues again and connected with Smith.
Benjamin became editor of Access Press in spring 2001, taking over from founding editor/publisher Charlie Smith Jr. Benjamin had worked with Smith at the newspaper part-time while Smith was ill with cancer, starting in 2000 with advertising sales. He transitioned into the executive director/editor role.
For the next 19 years, Benjamin served as executive director and editor of Access Press, Minnesota’s disability community newspaper. He was a fixture at the state capitol and rallies, and followed countless issues.
One of his favorite projects was producing The Real Story in 2013, with friend and documentarian Jerry Smith. It gives an overview of news media coverage of disability.
He wrote about 250 columns for Access Press and worked on many news articles. Employment for people with disabilities was a huge focus. So was the personal care attendant crisis.
“Tim Benjamin loved Access Press and he worked tirelessly to produce a monthly newspaper that is respected and valued by the disability community,” said Kay Willshire, a longtime friend and Access Press board member. “Tim made sure Access Press told the stories about how people lobbied, demanded and won equitable accessibility in housing, education, employment, entertainment and health care.”
He served on many groups and he and the paper won many awards. Benjamin also very much enjoyed meeting and mentoring younger people with disabilities, especially self-advocates who were just getting their start. He urged everyone with disabilities and urging them to share their stories as a way to encourage systems change.
He is survived by his wife and love of his life Lynda Milne, two sisters, two brothers and their families, and his faithful dog Buddy. An obituary and online tributes are at https://www.washburn-mcreavy.com/obituaries/Timothy-Benjamin-2/#!/Obituary.
Read the full obituary in the August issue of Access Press.