Neil Benson

Philly Dumpster Divers founding member, Neil Benson passed away the morning of January 18, 2023. We share this message from his sisters.

Photograph of Dumpster Diver Co-Founder Neil Benson

It is with great sadness and broken hearts that we’re letting you know that our dear “little” brother Neil, 69, left Broad St., Mole St., Wiota St. and this planet, early this morning, January 18. Photographer (Jagger, Springfield, Ormandy, Rizzo, MOVE bombing, Miss America, Nixon, Three Mile Island, etc); Artist (lamps, awards, license plate furniture, typewriter key jewelry, tin can frames); co-founder of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers (he had perfect attendance at every monthly meeting for 32 years!); educator and mentor; community activist, son of Frances and Jacob; storyteller; beloved cousin; friend; collector (1939 World’s Fair, Hawaiian shirts, meteorites, cartoon glasses, Coca Cola memorabilia, Neon signs, Metal lunchboxes, globes, medals, political buttons, etc etc). One of his favorite items of clothing was our Dad’s Eagle Scout sash with all the patches. Neil’s favorite meals would get minus Michelin stars. His big loves were Chubby’s cheesesteaks (preferably consumed on the way to or from Thrift store excursions), Primo’s hoagies, burgers and fries. That seems to cover the 4 food groups, right?

He aggravated his sisters and drove his parents crazy. He was loud, argumentative, stubborn, and interrupted constantly. He trash picked some of his early Volkswagen Beatles—one of them only had the door stay on if the button was pushed down. There was nothing he loved more than being in the center of an audience and regaling them with stories and jokes, or making funny little gifts for people. He was generous with his time and even with his limited money. Neil had the biggest heart, and though he sometimes suffered from depression, he mostly lived his life full up and joyously, delighting in everyday things and the company of neighbors, family, Divers, doctors, nurses, friends, grocery store clerks, and the mailman. With a hearty laugh, a twinkle in his eye, a sly smile and a funny story, —he charmed them all.

We are so grateful to have had Neil as our brother and will miss him forever. He was difficult to live with and impossible to live without.

Neil willed his body to medical science. We’re sure he will somehow be commenting on whatever teaching discussions they have! No funeral but memorial service at future date.

Love, Ellen and Sally

Photo from David Christopher / Unexpected Philadelphia.

Neil Benson at his home on Mole St

Visit Neil Benson at home on UNEXPECTED PHILADELPHIA

Photo from David Christopher / Unexpected Philadelphia

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth and former Philadelpha Mayor Frank Rizzo taken by photojournalist and Dumster Diver Neil Benson during the Queens 1976 visit to Philadelphia celebrate the Bicentennial of the United States of America.

Made In Philadelphia: Movers + Shakers
A Profile of Philadelphia · The Work of Photojournalist Neil Benson, 1970-1980

August 6, 2015 through November 15, 2016
Made In Philadelphia Gallery
Philadelphia History Museum at
The Atwater Kent

Visit the exhibit page.