Friends of Mary Bencini are shocked and saddened on Easter Sunday following the news of Bencini's sudden death Saturday night.
Friends and colleagues of the Geneva educator and volunteer are still trying to piece together what happened to Bencini, whose age was estimated at 62. They say she apparently died while driving herself to either the drug store or the emergency room at Delnor Hospital after she had been severely ill with a stomach flu.
"I talked to her early Wednesday, and she said she wasn't feeling well, so I called her again on Thursday, and she said, 'I have the worst flu. I haven't felt this bad in 20 years,' " said Terry Emma, executive director of the and a close friend of Bencini. "So I said, don't come in (to the History Center), just take advantage of the long weekend, and we'll see you on Monday."
According to friends and colleagues, Bencini was invited to some friends' house for dinner Saturday night but declined because she still wasn't feeling well. The friends offered to pick her up or drive her to the hospital, but she declined.
"That is just so like her," Emma said. "She didn't think of herself, she didn't want to bother anybody. She just said, 'I'll take myself.' "
Bencini was longtime secretary of the Geneva History Center board and spearheaded numerous fundraising efforts, including the annual during the holiday season. She was a member of the Geneva Academic Foundation and spoke annually at the .
She taught second grade for more than 30 years.
"She never had kids, so she just gave to everybody. She put in countless hours for us and for GAF and so many organizations," Emma said.
"It's a major shock, and just such a huge loss for the community."
A memorial service will be held at at a date and time to be named later.
On share2learn.com, Bencini wrote about what it means to be a community activist.
"I try to teach my second graders to be activists at our school, in our community, and even nationally and globally," she said. "I read interesting articles from the local newspaper to my kids daily and each child also gets Time For Kids. Both of these activities help to give my ideas on how to be activists.
"During Circle Time I also encourage my kids to bring problems and ideas to the group to discuss and problem solve if necessary. Many times the problems and ideas from Circle Time result in the kids writing letters to the principal or to our school's PTO or student council. I have found that kids absolutely love being activists and the things we do as a class are not only authentic, but also involve reading, writing, and math.
"Not only have I learned to look for opportunities for kids to be activists, but the kids are also great at looking for opportunies."
In an earlier , Emma talked about a yard sale Bencini held for the benefit of the HPC.
"We owe it all to Mary's tireless work for many weeks prior to the sale—getting donations, organizing and pricing. For three days, Mary and several volunteers started at 6:30 a.m. setting up tables, making deals and seeking donations. At the end of each day they packed away all the items—thankfully before the rain Saturday afternoon—and prepared for the next day of sales."
Geneva Patch will follow up when more information is available from official sources.