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Memorial service set for Howard Benns, champion hydroplane racer

April 7, 1939 - March 12, 2018

A memorial service with military honors will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Kaiser Funeral Home, 1050 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island for Howard "Howie" Benns, a Buffalo native who became a world champion hydroplane racer.

Mr. Benns died March 12 in his winter home in Fort Myers, Fla., following a long illness. He was 78.

A graduate of Riverside High School, Mr. Benns served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1956 to 1958.

His boat racing career started in the 1950s and spanned almost 40 years. In 1968, he won his first national championship aboard the SK-401 "Chevy Too Much," his first time in the boat. He followed that accomplishment in 1974 by becoming American, Canadian and world champion, a feat he repeated in 1988.

The names of some of the hydroplanes Mr. Benns piloted ā€“ Miss Budweiser, Sudden Seven, Miss Gangway and Dinomite ā€“ became well-known to racing fans.

He retired at age 55 and split his time between homes on Grand Island and in Florida.

He is survived by three daughters, Lynda Emanuele, April Wright and Cynthia Moss, and four grandchildren.

Following the memorial service Saturday, a celebration of Mr. Benns' life will be held at the Grand Island Rod & Gun Club, 1083 Whitehaven Road.

"In honor of Howie, please put on your jeans, racing shirts and have a drink with him," his daughter Lynda Emanuele said.

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