Daniel LeMonnier always followed his heart and his dreams.
His gifts were “a way to serve others and bring joy to others,” said his wife, Shari.
LeMonnier, a graduate of the Goodman School of Drama, was a storyteller, musician, performer, humorist, youth pastor, father, husband, brother, friend and the former mascot for the Chicago Bulls.
LeMonnier, of Munster, served as “Benny the Bull,” for 18 years. His service earned him two Chicago Bulls championship rings, something he was fond of sharing with others during his treatments at the University of Chicago Medical Center, said his wife. LeMonnier enjoyed a lot of bantering with player Charles Barkley, but some of his fondest memories also involved the pre-game chapel services held in the “Benny the Bull’ locker room. The services were dear to his heart, his wife said. Once, when the team chaplain couldn’t be there, he got to lead them himself.
LeMonnier did a lot of birthday parties as Benny the Bull, and many hospital visits. One day, a woman came up to him and asked if he’d been Benny the Bull during the Michael Jordan years. When LeMonnier said yes, she told him, “You visited my son when he was in the hospital.”
“It was such an amazing thing,” said Shari LeMonnier. “He humbly apologized: I don’t remember (your son). But the woman said, ‘He remembered you, and talked about (the visit) until the end of his life.’”
In addition to his masters degree from Goodman, LeMonnier earned a masters in Biblical Storytelling from Christian Theological Seminary. At the time of his death he was working on his doctorate in Biblical Storytelling and Biblical Culture through United Theological Seminary. He was studying biblical storytelling and biblical culture. He was also serving as Youth Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Munster.
LeMonnier was at home in front of audiences and enjoyed playing the banjo. “With banjo in his hands he really lit up,” said his wife. “He’d take a room full of disinterested students and have them in the palm of his hand.”
LeMonnier received the Frank L. Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship for his performance based on Clarence Jordan, considered the spiritual father of Habitat for Humanity. He was a finalist for the Brimstone Award in applied storytelling for his program on hospice. LeMonnier was also an art partner at Gary Lighthouse Charter Schools.