Longtime Benton City tavern owner dies at 70

BENTON CITY -- The Palm Tavern has been part of Benton City for nearly a century, but a piece of that history was lost Sunday morning.

John Huske, who owned the landmark downtown business for 23 years, died in his sleep at his home in Badger Canyon.

Some of his longtime friends and customers described Huske, 70, as a gentle and honest man.

He was the second in a line of seven sons, a bit of a scrapper in his youth, said brother Richard Huske of Richland, but one who would return from war with a kind and gentle spirit.

A veteran of the Army and Air Force, Huske received the Silver Star for his efforts in saving a fellow soldier in Vietnam.

Huske's wife, Kristi, who is better known as Kritter, said her husband loved to kid friends and to play cribbage and golf.

Huske got into the tavern business after deciding he'd had enough of traveling for construction jobs after he retired from the Air Force.

His wife says he liked telling people childhood memories of tagging along with his father.

The Huske boys grew up in the Tri-Cities, but Benton City was where their horses were kept, and The Palm Tavern was a favorite watering hole.

So it was no surprise when Huske offered to buy the bar from its owner, who just happened to be someone he went to school with years earlier, Richard said.

Huske researched the history of The Palm, collected old photographs of the tavern and discovered that it dated back to the 1920s when it was called The Palm Confectionery, a store selling candy, medicinal drugs and alcoholic beverages, Kritter said.

"He was one of the most gentle and kindest people I've been around. Nobody has a bad word to say about him," said Barbara Harms, a Benton City resident and a regular customer at the tavern.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday at the American Legion Hall in Benton City, behind The Palm. Einan's Funeral Home is handling arrangements.