Students of late Glenwood Springs educator fill football field for candlelight vigil |

Students of late Glenwood Springs educator fill football field for candlelight vigil

Students and friends of Jim Benson lower their heads in prayer at the start of the candle light vigil in remembered of the late Benson who passed away last Saturday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Hundreds of people — many of them students — filled the Glenwood Springs High School football field to hold a candlelight vigil for Jim Benson.

Benson taught students in Sopris Elementary School and Glenwood Springs Elementary School before retiring in 2014. After that, he drove the school bus where he took students to and from school — and made sure to make each one feel special first thing in the morning.

Glenwood Springs High School Senior Brae Johnson recalled her fondest memory of Benson.

“Elementary school and middle school were really difficult for me, so I’m sorry that I don’t remember a lot of teachers,” Johnson began.

“But Mr. Benson was a teacher I remembered because on the first day we sat down his question was ‘what is your favorite toothpaste?’ and what elementary school little kid is thinking about their favorite toothpaste?”

Johnson said the memory always put a smile on her face.

“One of the last times I saw him I was out shooting with my grandpa and we ran into him hunting,” an emotional Johnson said. “And he looked my grandfather directly in the eyes and said you should be so proud of your granddaughter, she’s so beautiful.”

Benson was always smiling and happy, Johnson said.

“He was just a very amazing person and I’m so glad to have had him in my life.”

Johnson was one of the dozens of people who shared their favorite Benson memories.

Glenwood Springs High School Assistant Principal and football coach Patrick Engle never saw Benson in a bad mood. Not once.

“He was probably one of the most positive human beings I’ve ever been around. I would even go as far to say I’ve never met a nicer man,” Engle said.

Benson drove the Glenwood Springs football team to Salida the night before he died in a motorcycle crash.

“I think for him he obviously left an incredible mark here on the community and I think it just seems to me that it all starts with kindness and just caring about others. I hope that’s what the kids heard tonight,” Engle said.

“Every kid that had Jim as a bus driver—I hope some of the kindness brushed off on them.”

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or

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