Geneva Remembers: Mary Bencini, 1949-2012

Part 3 of a multipart series: Beloved educator Mary Bencini was taken too soon.

  • Part 3 of a multipart series: Mary Bencini's death in a car accident on Easter weekend shocks and saddens a community.


Geneva lost a historian, an activist and an educator when Mary Bencini died following a crash on Easter weekend 2012. Reports later would indicate that a heart attack was the likley cause of the crash that took her life far too soon, at the age of 62.

According to reports, Bencini was invited to some friends' house for dinner on that Saturday night, but Mary declined because she 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," said Terry Emma and close friend and executive director of the Geneva History Center. "She didn't think of herself, she didn't want to bother anybody. She just said, 'I'll take myself.' "

Bencini was a longtime second-grade teacher at Western Avenue School. She was a member of the Geneva History Center Board of Directors and was a leader of the Geneva Academic Foundation, which has donated more than $1 million to Geneva educational needs over the years.

She is a former Wood Award winner, Geneva's highest honor for community service.

Bencini was known for having strong opinions about education and Geneva activities, and it would have been interesting to have heard her thoughts about the teachers contract negotiations that were at the summit of 2012's top stories of the year.

Beth Bales remembers Bencini in this wonderfully written, two-part series on Geneva Patch. In it, she says Bencini was known for her notes to former students, which Bencini wrote whenever she saw her kids mentioned in the paper or heard about something they were doing. As a teacher, she was sometimes unconventional in her approach, and often included in her lessons throughts about current events and encouragement to be active in one's community.

I remember Mary as a kind and frequent contributor to Geneva Patch when we were just starting out in late 2010. She would e-mail me with news tips and notes of encouragement, probably much as she did with her former students, and she was often involved in the articles I wrote. She was, for example, the person who always made the announcement at the annual Education Week breakfast about which programs would receive some help from the GAF.

One evening in November 2011, when I was trying to cover both a GAF silent auction at the Old Towne Pub and a Geneva History Center roundtable discussion about Geneva in the '30s and '40s, Mary told me how much she wished she could be at both places at the same time. Such was her commitment to the goings-on in Geneva—there just wasn't enough time to do it all.

And it's a little sad, this holiday season, to think that Mary won't be here to celebrate it with us.

There is solace, however, in the certain notion that Mary Bencini lived a full and active life, inspired countless Geneva students, many of whom went on to be teachers themselves, and contributed in so many way to a community that remembers her fondly.

In honor of her service, the Geneva History Center's Community Room was renamed the Mary Hogan Bencini Room earlier this year.


Rick Nagel
Geneva Patch editor
Dec. 24, 2012 


Related Articles

  • Genevans Remember Mary Bencini
  • Terry Emma: Mary Bencini's 'Historic' Yard Sale
  • Mary Bencini Remembered in Obituary; Visitation Is April 21
  • Genevans Remember Mary Bencini
  • Geneva Remembers Mary Bencini—Part 2
  • History Center's Community Room to Be Named in Honor of Mary Bencini
  • Police: Bencini Might Have Suffered Heart Attack
  • Geneva Leaders Celebrate Education
  • Beth Bales: Geneva Spirits Will Roam During Pub Crawl


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