Retired teacher Jim Benson remembered for his kindness and joyfulness
Former educator and staple within the Roaring Fork Valley community, Jim Benson, died in a motorcycle crash Saturday.
Benson, 69, was the only person involved in the crash, which occurred on Colorado Highway 141 about 15 miles south of Whitewater, according to a report from the Mesa County Coroner Victor Yahn.
Yahn’s report noted that Benson was wearing a helmet at the time of the incident.
His wife Mary taught kindergarten at Sopris Elementary School starting in 1998 and did so until she fell ill in 2014. Benson decided to finish out the year and begin taking care of his wife.
Benson started driving a school bus about the same time he started teaching. He drove a bus for middle school students up until the time of his death.
Kathy Whiting was principal of Sopris Elementary School when both Jim and his late wife, Mary, taught there.
“We’ve known the Bensons for a long, long time. In fact his wife Mary babysat our kids from when they were zero years old to kindergarten,” Whiting said.
“They were kind of a package. They were really so attuned to each other. I think the loss of Mary impacted our community as well, then losing Jim — he was really a special guy.”
Whiting said the biggest thing everyone loved about Jim was how loved he’d make others feel by simply showing kindness.
“You know how they say it’s not about the things you say it’s about how you make them feel? Jim made people feel special,” Whiting said.
When Jim made the switch to teaching gym class, Whiting said his goal was to learn every one of the students’ names.
“There were 720 kids. He’d be quoting off their names, and they’d laugh if he got it wrong then he’d repeat it again,” Whiting recalled. “With Jim, it’s all about the relationship.”
Whiting noted Jim’s email signature, “Cheerfully, Jim.”
“When I would walk away from the Benson home after picking my kids up, I would think look at that joy in that home. They’d bring that to work,” Whiting said of Jim and Mary. “He shared that with the community, with his family, with his colleagues.”
Glenwood Springs Middle School Assistant Principal Sandy Decrow also shared heartfelt words for Jim and Mary.
“Some of us were lucky enough to have Mr. B or Mrs. Benson as a teacher, some of us were lucky enough to ride his bus, some of us were lucky to work alongside him, some of us were lucky enough to coach or teach Mr. B’s amazing children,” Decrow said in an email.
“Some of my favorite days were spent heading out to bus duty a little early to catch up with Mr. B.”
Decrow said Benson brought joy to many and treated all kids and students as his own.
“How many times did I ever have to be on Mr. B’s bus for a discipline issue – NEVER, because he got to know those kids and they knew how much he cared about each and every one of them,” Decrow said.
Bus duty will never be the same, Decrow lamented.
“I think I can speak for all of Glenwood, when I say we will miss you dearly.”
Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.