BILLINGS, Mont. - Bataan Death March survivor, artist and educator Ben Steele has died in Montana. He was 98.
Julie Jorgenson tells The Billings Gazette her father died Sunday in Billings surrounded by his family.
Steele was born in Roundup and grew up riding horses, roping cattle and occasionally delivering supplies to western artist Will James.
He was a U.S. Army Air Corps private in the Philippines when the Japanese captured his unit in 1942. Thousands of soldiers died during a 66-mile march under a hot tropical sun. Steele was bayoneted, starved and beaten and suffered dysentery, malaria, pneumonia and septicemia. He said he kept his sanity by sketching.
When he returned to Montana, Steele taught art at Eastern Montana College which became Montana State University Billings. Ground was broken in March on Ben Steele Middle School in Billings.
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