Herman Benn, one of the owners who went to prison in 1990 in a sales-tax fraud case, lived for 19 years with the memories of what once had been. He died Monday of pancreatic cancer at his home in Atlantic City. He was 89.
It might be hard for younger people to appreciate what Nate Ben's Reliable meant to the community. The business didn't even have to advertise. Those who were looking for quality products, a wide selection and bargain prices knew they could find all three at Nate Ben's. Many sports figures, entertainers and city officials found their way to Nate Ben's, and it became widely known for sponsoring amateur sports teams, including those for the Baker League and the Christian Street YMCA.
The store closed in 1993, after declaring bankruptcy. By that time, Herman Benn and his brother Reuben Ben were serving prison terms after being convicted in Dauphin County Court in what the state called the largest sales-tax fraud case ever brought in Pennsylvania. The business was accused of withholding more than $1 million in sales taxes over 20 years. The Bens' older brother Nathan was also convicted, but he escaped prison and died in May 1991.
Herman Benn, who added the extra "n" to his name because teachers at Simon Gratz High School thought it was his first name, was a wounded veteran of World War II. He was in a truck transporting German prisoners in France in 1944 when it hit a land mine. He was awarded the Purple Heart, and walked with a limp the rest of his life.
He had started working in 1939 at age 16 at the furniture store started by his father, David, and then called Reliable Furniture. After the war, Herman returned to the store. David Ben changed the name of the store to honor his son Nathan in 1950, and the rest is retail history.
Herman married his wife, Shaindee, in 1948. They were dedicated travelers and visited pre-Castro Havana; Caracas, Venezuela, and France, among other destinations.
He was an active supporter of the state of Israel and contributed to the Federation of Jewish Agencies of Greater Philadelphia.
His wife died in 2011. He is survived by two sons, Joel and Paul; four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Services: Were Thursday. Burial was in Roosevelt Memorial Park, Trevose.
Contributions may be made to the Jewish National Fund, 2100 Arch St., Philadelphia 19103.
Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or email@example.com, or on Twitter @johnfmorrison.