My tribute to Dad

I wrote this for Dad’s memorial service.

Julian Whitfield Benson,Jr. May 1, 1932 – October 8, 2011

Dad’s Memorial Service October 12, 2011

Thank all of you for coming out to honor and remember my father. Most of you know of his many accomplishments over the years, so I’m not going to recap those. Instead, I’m sharing a couple of my personal memories today – things that didn’t appear in his obituary. They are small things that might not mean much to others, but they are close to my heart.

Dad loved the outdoors – we all know that. When I was about 9 he took my sister and me on an overnight hike with the Trail Club, from Woody Gap to Neal’s Gap, camping overnight down at Lake Winfield Scott. I don’t think he was prepared to have a pair of short-legged cranky weights figuratively shackled to his leg slowing him down, but he didn’t show it. Instead, he made it a memorable trip for us. I remember we sat on a rock outcrop eating cheese sandwiches for lunch and talking, with him patiently answering our endless questions. It was a special day, just him and us, and to this day that was the best cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

Most girls want dolls & such when they are young. Not me. Dad knew that. He made sure I got the kind of toys I really wanted – books, a microscope and a chemistry set, more books, a Kenner Girder & Panel Monorail kit, even more books. He even got me a Digi-Comp I and started me on my programming path by showing me how to program it to count to seven! In binary! No wonder I’m a geek today! He believed all of his children could become whatever we wanted to be, and did his very best to encourage that in all of us.

Even my painful memories are precious. The night Mother died, we girls were staying with Dad’s parents. Once I knew she was at the hospital and that Nanny and Grandpa had gone over there, I stubbornly refused to go to bed until they got back. So I was sitting on the floor when Dad, Nanny, and Grandpa came in. I’m sure the last thing Dad wanted to see at that moment was his ten-year-old daughter rushing at him asking “Is Mommy okay?” But as he hugged me close and told me she was gone, I knew that it would be tough but he’d make sure it would be all right in the end. The next morning as he told my sisters, I sat beside him thinking, “Dad has to be strong for us, so I need to do my best to be strong for him.”

During his last hospitalization, as I sat with him one morning, my little-girl voice spoke up in my head saying, “That’s not my daddy! Where’s my daddy?” I know where he is now – he’s out there hiking a new trail, one that’s challenging enough to be fun but not so challenging to make it like work. He’s enjoying deep breaths of the fresh mountain air and seeing beautiful new vistas, with boots that fit perfectly and a backpack that is just the right weight to carry comfortably. I’m hoping he’s met up with some of his old hiking buddies already – Larry Freeman, Joe Boyd, and all the others! Maybe in his travels he’ll even find a chance to stop by and give a little technical advice to that young whippersnapper Steve Jobs. May your trail be smooth, Dad, and may your journey be peaceful. I love you.