Montana Artist, Teacher, and WWII Veteran, Ben Steele: A Tribute
Ben Steele passed away on Sunday, September 25 in Billings, Montana. He was 98.
Steele's drawing and paintings leave us a remarkable record of war, survival, forgiveness, and reconciliation. He later taught art in the public schools, and Steele and his wife, Shirley, donated his artworks consisting of 11 oil paintings and 82 drawings to the MMAC Permanent Collection in 2010.
Steele was a World War II veteran and Bataan Death March survivor. As a prisoner he created drawings documenting the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, the capture of American and Filipino POWs and the degradation and cruelty to which prisoners were subjected. Steele endured forty-one months of starvation, dehydration, hard labor, torture, and Japanese "hell ships" while crippled by dysentery, pneumonia, malaria, and blood poisoning. He attributes his survival to his love of Montana and early experiences on his family ranch near Roundup, Montana.
MMAC remains committed to keeping the legacy of Ben Steele's achievements as a humanitarian and artist alive by featuring his art and story with an exhibition every four years. You can see many of his works in our online collection.
We are honored to be stewards of his collection, and our most sympathetic wishes are with the Steele family.