Bernard (“Ben”) Benedict Mateosky died Dec. 29. He was 90. His family provided the following.
Ben was born March 21, 1930, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to Joseph and Mary Mateosky. Ben was the youngest of five children and spent his childhood running wild and spending time with his beloved nephews, the “Bealko Boys.”
In 1947, Ben joined the Air Force and spent several years as a paratrooper, with over 100 jumps to his credit. He was always athletic, even playing football while in the Air Force, and after his military career was picked up in the minor leagues of baseball, including six years in the AAA Division. Ben enjoyed playing for numerous teams, including the AAA divisions of the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals, but met his future wife, Lyla, or “Red” as he lovingly called her, while he was playing for the Idaho Falls Russets and she was attending nursing school.
Ben and Lyla (Schultz) were married in Jackson on Feb. 19, 1955, and had their first child, Kasey, in 1956. Ben, Lyla and Kasey traveled extensively while Ben was playing baseball, even spending a few seasons in Puerto Rico. A few years later their second son, Jamie, was born, followed by the birth of their daughter, Laurie, three years later. By 1962, Ben, the “Mighty Ox-sky” or “Big Ben,” as he was dubbed by the league, had compiled a career batting average of .280, with over 192 home runs, and 394 RBIs in his 1,175-game career.
Eventually Ben and Lyla decided to switch gears and return to Lyla’s hometown, Jackson. After working odd jobs and on a construction crew that was responsible for erecting the tram in Teton Village, Ben decided to start his own construction company, Mateosky Construction Inc.
Ben could not resist the urge to play baseball and fought hard to create a league, organize teams and have a dedicated baseball field in Jackson. He was a robust 6 feet, 2 inches. His pitching was feared by the “youngsters,”and his legendary grand slams racked up the score for his teams. In fact, he continued striking youngsters out with his fast pitches until he was 60.
Ben’s contributions to baseball in the Jackson community were rewarded in 1973, when a baseball field was dedicated in his name: Mateosky Park. His great-grandson, Ethan, currently plays at the field, as did his children and grandchildren who lived in Jackson.
As the years passed, Ben’s business was thriving and he eventually welcomed his first grandchild, Cassie. Thereafter he was lovingly referred to as “Papa” and eventually embraced additional grandchildren: his namesake Ben, Seth, Chelsea, Lyla Anne and Miranda. Cassie and Ben spent countless nights and weekends during their childhood being spoiled at Papa’s house and are forever grateful for all of the love and time he devoted to them. He was such a dedicated grandfather that he gave up his 50-year smoking habit, cold turkey, when his grandson Ben developed allergies and could not be around him unless he did.
Tiring of the long Jackson winters and wanting to be closer to his daughter, Laurie, and her girls, Ben and Lyla moved to Snowflake, Arizona, in 1998. They spent their time in Arizona exploring the desert, fishing, crafting, and taking meticulous care of their home and property. They made many wonderful friends, spent holidays with family and were able to be close to their son, Jamie, during a battle with cancer that took his life.
If you could not find Ben at the baseball field you could head to his house and find him tinkering around in his workshop or out playing golf. He was incredibly artistic and over the years made trunks, desks, clocks, jewelry and cabinets and dabbled in pottery and painting classes. He even restored boats and cars and started his own, very small, vineyard – Hit N’ Miss Vineyards.
Ben also enjoyed fishing on Jackson Lake, growing, cooking, canning anything he could get his hands on, and camping on the Green River. His beautiful blue eyes sparkled when he joked, and his quick wit made people laugh uncontrollably. For anyone visiting his house he prepared three rich meals a day, including appetizers, and would take offense to anyone daring to not eat 10 times their body weight while under his roof.
Ben eventually welcomed several great-grandchildren and loved them as fiercely as the rest of his brood. He made it a point to be there for births and built each of them trunks to remember him by. During his last year he was able to spend time on a houseboat, fishing with his son Kasey and his wife, Leanne, enjoyed visits with his daughter, proudly watched his granddaughter Lyla Anne’s cheerleading competitions and lovingly taught his other granddaughter Miranda all of his secret recipes so the family can continue enjoying his special breakfast sausage, pickles and more. He led an active and independent life until the end and will continue to have an unforgettable presence wherever he has been sent on his next adventure.
Ben is preceded in death by his parents, siblings, and his son, Jamie. He is survived by his wife, Lyla, their children Kasey and Laurie, and his six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Donations in his honor can be made to the Jackson Youth Baseball program at JHYB, P.O. Box 9122, Jackson, WY 83002.
A celebration of life will be held in Summer 2021.