Until his last days, Bennet Cyrus was shouting at the Minnesota Vikings. Cyrus was usually a calm man, but when football came on, he unleashed his inner Viking — he would scream with the fans in the stadium and throw foam bricks at the TV.
The fervent fan and father of four died on Feb. 5 at age 70 of complications from lung cancer.
Like his team, Cyrus rooted for those around him. The charismatic entrepreneur and minority business leader was familiar with the hard work and sacrifice it takes to succeed so he mentored and lifted up those around him.
Cyrus left his home in Trivandrum, India, in 1968 to study computer programming at the University of Minnesota.
“He instilled in us that you are not born with anything,” his daughter Zaneeta Best said. “You have to work for what you want.”
While in college, Cyrus met Daniel Kaiyalethe. They would go on to share 46 years of friendship and meals. In college, they would cook up Indian dishes and invite the other international students over to dine. They had a standing engagement to eat out at a restaurant every Wednesday. The friends kept up the tradition until Cyrus’ death.
Cyrus spent 14 years working as programmer for TCF Bank before he founded a multimillion-dollar corporate travel company, Metro Travel & Tours. Some of his clients included General Mills and Honeywell.
Cyrus quickly became a leader in the minority business community and won the 2013 Supplier of the Year award from the Midwest Minority Supplier Development Council. He often gave back to the local Indian community and would help friends with financial advice and business guidance. Cyrus wanted to tell anyone willing to listen that the American dream was possible.
“He grew up very poor in India,” Best said. “He was determined to make something of himself.”
Cyrus took each of his four children on one-on-one trips to India to visit family, filling his suitcase with gifts to bring back home.
Tasha Cyrus traveled with her dad when she was 13. She said the trip changed her perspective on her life back in America.
“It was a special moment,” she said, but she also remembers, “He did lie to me about a train trip. He said it was only going to be a few hours and it was 18.”
On family vacations, Cyrus got to relax. He would belt out the lyrics to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” on trips to Brainerd or light up a cigar on the beach in Jamaica.
At home, he would unwind with a glass of Johnnie Walker and put on his white V-neck T-shirt and his purple, gold and white Zubaz pants. His children had to special-order the ’80s-style elastic-waist pants for their dad, who seldom took them off.
Along with his Zubaz, Cyrus was hardly ever seen without his tiger teeth necklace from India, which he was forced to take off only during radiation treatments. “When we were younger, we believed my father fought a tiger for those teeth,” Best said.
On Feb. 10, his family said their last goodbyes at the First Memorial Waterston Chapel in Minneapolis.
Besides his daughters Zaneeta and Tasha, Cyrus is survived by son Rajeev Cyrus and daughter Jasmine Cyrus, three grandsons and his sister Betsy.