Al Benson, Vice President of Sales for The Anstadt Company’s Central File Marketing and longtime member of the APRO Vendor Advisory Committee, died unexpectedly on January 12, 2023, at his vacation home in Fort Myers, Florida. A resident of Townsend, Wisconsin, he was 65.
Well-known and well-loved among his rent-to-own industry colleagues, Benson began his RTO career in 1981 as a partner in a seven-store ColorTyme franchise. He subsequently joined ColorTyme’s corporate office, but left the industry to own and operate several golf stores in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When his former ColorTyme partner founded Central File Marketing in 1999, Benson returned to his rent-to-own roots and spent the next 23 years earning a reputation for RTO activism, enthusiasm, and leadership – as well as many terrific friendships.
“The outpouring of support from the people who worked with and around Al has been incredible,” said Matt Doran, The Anstadt Company’s President and CEO. “He cared so much about people – that’s what made Al so special and unique. The guy truly cared about this industry, and it was unbelievable to watch that.”
Benson’s love of RTO and especially his appreciation of the human connection came through in his work on the APRO Vendor Advisory Committee (VAC), where he served for the past 17 years.
“Al was a terrific fellow and a valued member of the Vendor Advisory Committee for years,” said Bill French, VAC Chair and Vice President of O’Rourke Sales Company. “Al will be missed by everyone who ever met him. He was a guy everyone loved, me included.”
As a VAC member, Benson also served on the APRO State Association Coordination Committee, pledging Central File Marketing’s membership in every rent-to-own state association seeking vendor membership and challenging all industry vendors to do the same. Additionally, Benson often attended APRO’s Legislative Conference, as well as scores of regional RTO meetings. He was honored for all his hard work when APRO named him the 2015 Norm Smith Vendor of the Year.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Al Benson,” said Michael Bennett, APRO President and CEO of Buddy’s Newco LLC, dba Buddy’s Home Furnishings. “His contributions to rent-to-own have been immeasurable. His loss is profoundly felt – not just by our community, but by the entire industry.”
In addition to his contributions to RTO, Benson will be well-remembered for his personable style, his love of golf and baseball (he played minor-league ball for a while in Canada as a starter for the Cambridge Terriers), and his collaborative nature.
“The first tradeshow I went to with Al was in Nashville, and they were taking us on buses to go downtown,” remembered Doran. “The bus was packed, Al Benson climbed aboard, and I remember thinking, ‘This guy is a rock star!’ He got on and the whole bus erupted; they were high-fiving him all the way down the aisle. That’s what an influence Al was to so many people in this industry. I’ll never forget that.”
Benson is survived by his wonderful wife Mary, as well as his daughter Heather Leitner and her husband Jason; two stepsons, Eric and Brian Linssen, and Brian’s wife Mindy; parents Darrell and Marvel Benson; brother Curt Benson and wife Jannell; grandchildren Nolan, Kassidee, Braylee, Aubree, and Blake; nephew Colten and nieces Kayla and Kennedy. He resided in Townsend, Wisconsin, about an hour’s drive northwest of Green Bay. Celebration of life services are currently pending.
The Association of Progressive Rental Organizations (APRO) is America’s only national trade association for the rental-purchase industry. Our mission is to provide valuable member benefits, maintain a benevolent business climate, and promote professionalism with responsibility and integrity throughout our industry. For more information, reach out to APRO at firstname.lastname@example.org.