Ben Sirman of Seaford and Fenwick Island died on Oct. 10, 2022. He was born on Nov. 15, 1939, at home in Laurel to Lloyd B. Sirman, Sr. and Gladys Outten Sirman. Ben attended school in Laurel, graduating with the class of 1958. A scholar-athlete at Laurel, he was president of the student council, vice-president of the National Honor Society and was selected to Delaware Boys State. In the community, cooperating with the Laurel Kiwanis Club, he was the founding president of the Laurel Youth Canteen. At the state level, he was president of the Delaware Teenage Association of Safe Drivers. While earning 10 varsity letters he was co-captain of the 1957 undefeated football team, captain and first team all-state in basketball, and a four-year starter in baseball. He quarterbacked the Gold team in the 1958 Delaware All-Star football game. Ben had his choice to accept Senator John Williams’ appointment to be in the third class of the Air Force Academy or attend Swarthmore College on the Thomas B. McCabe Achievement Award. He chose to accept the McCabe Scholarship and attended Swarthmore where he earned nine varsity letters in football, basketball, and baseball. In 1962 in basketball, he led the MAC Conference in foul shooting percentage and was captain of the baseball team. He was a member of the class of 1962 and majored in history. He was a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity.
Upon graduation from Swarthmore, Ben began his 34-year career in education and coaching at Bridgeville High School where he met first grade teacher Ellen Hallman. They were married on June 13, 1964, by her father, Rev. Raymond W. Hallman, at St. John’s Methodist Church in Seaford. They made their home in Bridgeville until moving to Seaford in 1969. Ellen encouraged and shared Ben’s endeavors and successes throughout his life. Ben and Ellen received the blessings of their lives in 1970 when their son Trey was born. Ellen and Ben received further blessings from Trey when their five granddaughters were born.
Ben started his teaching and coaching career in Bridgeville at the critical time of integration of the public school system in southern Delaware. The successes of his football and basketball teams helped bring the community together and eased the process of integration in the school system. The Bridgeville Mustangs football team was the undefeated champions of the Henlopen Conference in 1966 and 1967 and lost only one game in 1968 which brought an end to a 23-game win streak. Ben coached in the 1964 Blue-Gold All-Star football game becoming the first former player to return as a coach. He coached again in the 1969 game with six of his standout Bridgeville players on the squad that beat the Blue team 42-0. The 1967 Bridgeville basketball team was the Western Division Champions of the Henlopen Conference and played in the first Boys State Basketball Tournament losing to state champion Mt. Pleasant. In 1968, Bridgeville was the undefeated champions of the Henlopen Conference and finished the season with a 19-1 record losing only to state champions P.S. DuPont in the semi-finals of the State Tournament. The team finished with the best record in the state and Ben was named Delaware Basketball Coach of the Year for 1968. As head coach at Bridgeville in football and basketball for four years and head coach in baseball for two years, Ben’s teams won 102 games, lost 28 and tied one for a winning percentage of 78 percent. Ben and the Mustangs accomplished this before he reached the age of 30.
With consolidation of schools in 1969, Ben and Ellen moved to Seaford where he served as a teacher, guidance counselor and coach. He was head football coach from 1969 through 1972 with a record of 26-13-1. In 1973, he became athletic director and was instrumental in the hiring of Ron Dickerson as head football coach and Len Chasanov as head basketball and baseball coach that same year. Later he hired Dave Baker as Seaford’s head basketball coach. Each of these coaches went on to be inducted into several Delaware Sports Hall of Fames. Ben continued to coach successfully at all levels in the school system and in the Little Leagues of the community. As athletic director, he started junior high sports in the Seaford School District in 1976 and at the high school level, he was instrumental in the purchasing of weight training equipment and the inclusion of Weight Training classes in the high school curriculum. As a coach in the Nanticoke Little League in 1982, the Seaford Major League All-Stars won the Delaware state baseball championship. In 1983 as a co-coach with Al Bowden in the Seaford Little League Football program with son Trey, at quarterback, their team enjoyed an undefeated, un-scored upon season. That same year his Little League Basketball team with Trey at point guard went undefeated. Coaching high school baseball with legendary coach Ron Dickerson, Seaford won the 1983 and 1986 state baseball championships. During Ben’s 18-year tenure as athletic director, Seaford won 99 conference, division, or state titles. He was named Delaware Athletic Director of the Year in 1991. In 1992, he was awarded the Henlopen Conference Gold Lifetime Pass, the highest honor bestowed by the conference.
Ben served 20 years on the Boys State Basketball Tournament Committee, 15 of them as chairman, during which time the 24-team tournament format was adopted. He was appointed to the Board of Governors of the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in 1999 and served for 14 years including four years as vice president. In each of these positions Ben met and worked with many outstanding people throughout the state of Delaware.
After retiring from his positions in the Seaford School District, Ben served the Henlopen Conference as executive secretary for 11 years. Ben’s overall relationship with the conference as a coach, athletic director, and executive secretary spanned over 45 years. After retiring from that position, he continued to support and enjoy his relationship with the athletic directors of the conference. Ben cherished the friendships he made with fellow athletic directors and coaches over all those years.
A highlight of his retirement was in November of 2003 when his Bridgeville Mustang players surprised him with a “Ben Sirman Night” at the Bridgeville Fire Hall. Former players, friends, and fans attended in a night of remembering the glory days of the “Mighty Mustangs.” Other honors in retirement include Honorary Life Membership in the Del-Mar-Va Football Coaches and Officials Association in 2005, induction into the first class of the Delaware Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Herm Reitzes Award by the Delaware Sports Writers and Broadcasters Association in 2009 for lifetime contributions to athletics in Delaware. In 2011, Ben was honored along with fellow coach Ron Dickerson by their former Seaford players with a “Return to Glory” banquet for the benefit of the Nanticoke Senior Center. The fitness room of the Center is named the Coach Sirman – Coach Dickerson Fitness Facility. In 2012, Ben was inducted into the Delaware Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions during the period of integration of public schools in Delaware and the years that followed. In January of 2014, he was inducted into the Delaware “Legends” Basketball Hall of Fame and on May 15, 2014, he was inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame. On Feb. 14, 2022, the Seaford High School Gymnasium was renamed the “Ben Sirman Gymnasium” in Ben’s honor. On Oct. 24, 2022, he was to be inducted into the Delaware Athletic Director Hall of Fame.
Ben enjoyed surf fishing, rabbit hunting, and spending time at Fenwick Island with family and friends. In October of 1974, surf fishing with lifelong friend Roy Jones and Hall of Fame Coach George Schollenberger, Ben caught a 20 pound Blue Fish, which was believed to be a state record at the time. This earned him the nickname of “Big Blue” among his fishing buddies. He loved animals and for most of his life raised his own beagles for hunting as well as pets.
Through it all, Ben was the happiest when he and Ellen were with Trey and his wife, Shari, and his granddaughters. They were the light of his life, and he was extremely proud of all of them and their accomplishments.
Ben was predeceased by his parents and by his brother William Noble Sirman, who died tragically in 1953, and brother-in-law John F. Higgins and sister-in-law Joyce H. Higgins. In addition to his wife Ellen of 58 years, he is survived by his son Trey and his wife Shari, and granddaughters Mia, Eva, Lena, Taya, and Sofia. He is also survived by his brother Laurence Edward and his wife Marsha and their daughter Sara Sirman; and their son Jake Sirman, and his wife Amy, and son Erza, and daughters Evelyn and Reese. In addition, he is survived by his nieces, Iva Morris and her husband John and daughters, Shelsea, Amy Grassey and her son Austin, and daughter Julia; nephews, Ed Higgins and his wife Amy and their son, Ross and daughter, Alex; and Luke Higgins and his wife Missi. Ben is also survived by childhood and high school buddies, Bruce Moore, Harold Slatcher, and Jim Yori.
Ben was a member of St. John’s Methodist Church in Seaford. He was a member of the Seaford Historical Society, the Laurel Historical Society, the Bridgeville Historical Society, the Laurel Alumni Association, and the Delaware Retired Teachers Association. As a board member and officer of the Nanticoke Senior Center he was instrumental in the purchase and renovation of the former Seaford Golf and Country Clubhouse into a new home for the senior center. He was extremely proud of the fitness room of the senior center, which he had designed.
There was a visitation on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at the Seaford Senior Center. A graveside service will be held on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Seaford. Arrangements are being made by Cranston Funeral Home in Seaford. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Nanticoke Senior Center, 1001 West Locust Street, P.O. Box 406, Seaford, DE 19973 or to Seaford High School Athletic Program, 399 N. Market Street Ext., Seaford, DE 19973.
To leave a condolence visit www.cranstonfuneralhome.com.