June 13, 1928 – June 25, 2019
Resident of Blackhawk, California
Kenneth E. Behring passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family on June 25, 2019. He was born on June 13, 1928 to Elmer and Mae (Priewe). Behring was raised in Monroe, Wisconsin, and attended Monroe High School followed by one semester at the University of Wisconsin. Ken was an outstanding high school football player and thoroughly enjoyed watching his sons and grandsons play football. He and his wife, Pat, were loyal to their high school and returned every five years to their reunion. They hosted an all-expenses-paid trip for their classmates to come to California to celebrate their 50th reunion.
In 1949, Ken started Behring Motors and a career in the automobile dealership business becoming a millionaire by the age of 27. In 1956, he moved his family to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he began a career in real estate, launching Behring Construction Company. In 1961, Ken Behring founded the bedroom community of Tamarac, Florida, which today has nearly 80,000 residents. By 1972, Behring had established himself as the largest builder in Florida, and the tenth largest builder in the United States. That same year he moved to the San Francisco Bay area, and would go on to build the golf community, Blackhawk Country Club (where he has resided until his passing) and the community at Canyon Lakes, in San Ramon, California. In addition, he helped build the Summerset communities in Brentwood and Rio Vista, California.
Ken was an avid Sportsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing worldwide. He loved taking his sons and friends on fishing trips and, somehow, always managed to catch the largest fish – including a 1,050-pound Marlin. Following his passion for football from his youth, in 1988 he purchased the Seattle Seahawks football team in a hand-shake deal and owned the team until 1997. Ken also loved to travel and visited over 130 countries. He became friends with countless world leaders over the years including Nelson Mandela, King Juan Carlos of Spain and Vicente Fox. We affectionately referred to him as the “Global Ambassador for the United States.”
Ken was a dedicated philanthropist. Early in his career, he and his wife, Patricia, founded programs to award outstanding teachers and educators in Florida. In 1988, Behring opened the world-renowned Blackhawk Auto Museum. The Behring family has supported numerous national and global projects including; The renovation of the Smithsonian Institution’s Hall of Mammals and Natural History Museum, The Price of Freedom and American Presidency exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History and establishment of the Behring Center, noted at the time as the largest personal gifts ever made to the Smithsonian, for which he received the James Smithson Award. The Principal Leadership Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Kenneth E. Behring Center of Educational Improvement for which he received the Chancellor’s Citation in 2001. Over 600 school leaders have benefited from this program. For a decade Ken was also the largest benefactor of Natural History Day, in which over 600,000 students participate each year.
Ken was recognized by many organizations for his business success and philanthropy. He received honorary doctorates from Brigham Young University and John F. Kennedy University as well as from Universities in China. He was a member of the California Homebuilding Foundation Hall-of-Fame, the Bay Area Sports Hall-of-Fame, the Rotary Arch Klumph Society and the American Academy of Achievement.
In 2000, Behring founded Wheelchair Foundation, which has provided 1,100,000 wheelchairs to the disabled and less fortunate in 155 countries worldwide. He would later establish WaterLeaders to provide clean water in rural areas of the world and Operation Global Vision to perform cataract surgeries in Asia and Mexico. In 2010 he formed Behring Global Educational Foundation as an umbrella organization supporting his, and other, philanthropic projects including, National History Day, Global Natural History Day and the International Museums Project which assists with the building and development of Natural History museums worldwide, including over 40 museums in China. Lately, Mr. Behring has dedicated his time to developing new exhibits at Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, including The Spirit of the Old West, Art of Africa and The Wonderful World of Nature.
Ken is survived by his wife of over 69 years, Pat, sons: Tom (Malissa), David (May), Jeff (Jane) and Scott (Jeanna), Ken’s oldest son, Michael, preceded him in death. Ken also leaves 10 grandchildren: Renee, John (Melissa), Colin (Elizabeth), Jessica, Kyle, Stephanie, Chris, Brandon, Patrick and Elizabeth (Dominic), and two great-grandchildren: Luke and Ethan.
A Celebration of Life for Kenneth E. Behring will be held on Wednesday, July 31st at 4:00pm at the Blackhawk Museum. Casual attire is encouraged.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please make contributions in Ken’s memory to either Wheelchair Foundation or the Blackhawk Museum Education Transportation Fund.