Orange loses another legend
The young pretty teacher is always a favorite among students. When Eunice Robinson (later Benckenstein) moved to Orange at the age of 21 to teach at the high school, her students never forgot her. She outlived most, if not all, of those early students. And though she taught only a few years, she became a staple of philanthropy and volunteerism in her adopted home. She died Sunday, at her home, at the age of 99 years and 11 months.
Through the years she worked with a number of charities, civic organizations and her church. She served on the board of trustees of the old Orange Independent School District from 1953 to 1961, and was a longtime director of the Stark Foundation. She was named Citizen of the Year in 1974 by the Orange Chamber of Commerce.
She was known for decades to many people as ?Miz B? and until three or four years ago, was still driving.
She was a longtime member and supporter of First United Methodist Church in Orange. Funeral services will be held at the church at 11 a.m. Thursday, with visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Claybar Funeral Home in Orange.
A change in plans led her to move to Orange right after she graduated from the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman?s University). She earned a bachelor?s degree in business administration in three years and had hoped to get a teaching job in Marshall, Texas. But the job didn?t come, so she came to Orange to teach business and commerce in the fall of 1929, a few weeks before the stock market crash started the Great Depression.
Mrs. Benckenstein was born June 6, 1908, in Thomas, Custer County, Oklahoma and was the third of five children. She was valedictorian of her eighth grade class and later senior class at Wetumka High (Oklahoma) before going to college.
She changed careers in 1938 and went to work as secretary and accountant of the Vinton Petroleum Co., with headquarters in the Stark Building on Front Street in downtown Orange. In 1943, she married widower Charles H. Benckenstein, a founder and partner with H.J. Lutcher Stark in the Vinton Petroleum Co. Mr. Benckenstein died in 1946.
She continued to work with the oil company, including service as a director. She also worked with civic groups like the United Way, YMCA and Girls Haven, and served as a leader in her church.
She was a familiar sight in Orange at arts performances and attended competitions of the Miriam Lutcher Stark Reading Contest for high school students until she was in her mid-90s.
Mrs. Benckenstein also loved nature and was a member of the Audubon Society, along with her good friend Sue Bailey, the Bridge City naturalist, who died last week at the age of 84.