My dear, wonderful Uncle Mark passed away last Sunday. His funeral was yesterday, my grandpa Benson’s 113th birthday (he passed away several years ago but it was a fitting time to commemorate both lives). He had a profound influence on my life both directly and in countless indirect ways. I suppose he and my grandfather were Dad’s closest friends next to Mom.
His sense of humor, genuine kindness, desire to serve, and love for his God, family, and country will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
When I arrived the parking lot was entirely full as was the overflow parking across the street. I ended up parking about a block away so was just in time but the chapel was too full so I sat in the back by myself. Anyone familiar with LDS chapels knows that the chapel typically has an annex – which was open and full – and beyond that there is a ‘cultural hall’ or ‘gym’ which was also full. I ended up in the back of the cultural hall. That’s how many people came to pay their respects. The program was lovely, all but their eldest son, Stephen Reed, shared memories and the grandchildren played a beautiful musical number. By beautiful, I mean absolutely wonderful. Aunt Lela and Uncle Mark’s daughters are all world-class concert musicians as are several of their grandchildren. President Thomas Monson (President of the LDS Church) spoke briefly at the end and in his typical gentle, humorous, poignant way, reminded us all of the brevity of this life and the importance of faith and family as exemplified by Uncle Mark.
As I sat there in the back, I could pick out various extended family members and spent a great deal of time remembering reunions, visits, long talks and the sharing that only close knit families have. Although the paths that I have chosen are a bit different from most of theirs, I deeply love them and am grateful to be part of them.
After the funeral, I caught up with my parents and several siblings. My sister, Heather, was pushing Dad’s wheelchair to the car for the ride up to Whitney, Idaho but Mom needed to use the restroom before going on a long car ride. She was scheduled for knee surgery last week but postponed it due to Uncle Mark’s passing and the funeral, so walking is difficult and painful for her. So, I accompanied her back into the building to the ladies room. As I was using the facilities myself, I heard what sounded like an elderly woman’s voice say ‘You must be Mary May!’ Now, the ONLY people that call Mom ‘Mary May’ are her siblings, the older generation of her family or people who knew her when she was very young. As in over 60 years ago.
Anyway, after I did what one does in such places, my mother introduced me to Anita Cummings, the woman who taught her to crochet and knit!!! I was truly thrilled! I couldn’t help but give her a big hug and tell her I loved her for teaching Mom who taught me and what a blessing knitting has been in my life. It’s not just being able to knit, it’s having a place in my life for creativity, for functionality, for an escape and an unpredictability/serendipitous nearly magical at times experience when the light bulb goes on learning a new technique or a project is finished. Although I’m certainly not the worlds’ greatest knitter, it’s not about that for me. It’s about being able to do something tangible, oh… I could go on and on and on. There are currently four pairs of socks on the needle and a shawl. I’ll post pics later.
She must have had quite a challenge on her hands, Mom was the ultimate tom-boy back in the day.
Mark Amussen Benson
Mark Amussen Benson
1929 – 2012
Mark Amussen Benson, age 83, passed away peacefully on Sunday, July 29, 2012, at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah, after a short illness. He spent the last hours of his life with all of his family around him.
Mark was born on May 2, 1929, in Salt Lake City, to Ezra Taft and Flora Smith Amussen Benson, the second eldest of six children. His childhood years were spent in Boise, Idaho; Berkeley, California; and Bethesda, Maryland. Mark nearly died as a young man from asthma but was cared for and nurtured by his loving parents and family. When the Bensons relocated to Utah, Mark graduated from East High School and later earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Brigham Young University in 1952. He continued his studies at Stanford University where he earned a master’s degree in education in 1953.
While at BYU, Mark was active in a host of organizations, including Phi Eta Sigma, Blue Key, and served as Homecoming chairman. The highlight of Mark’s time at BYU, however, was when he met, courted, and married Lela Wing of Raymond, Alberta, Canada. They were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on December 30, 1952. Mark and Lela made their home in Utah, Texas, and Indiana, and would become the parents of six children, 34 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren. Mark’s greatest moments in life were the times he spent with his family on outings, at concerts, at sporting events, and at family reunions. All of them will always remember his example of Christ-like charity and his undeviating devotion to the restored Gospel.
Professionally, Mark had aspirations of becoming an educational administrator and he pursued this path being named the first director of the BYU Adult Education Center in Ogden, Utah. However, as a gifted speaker, skilled marketer, and consummate salesman, Mark followed his innate talents and was hired in his first sales position with Rena-Ware Distributors. Mark was then recruited to be a regional and, subsequently, a national manager for the Saladmaster Corporation of Dallas, Texas. He would eventually become president of a Saladmaster division, Castlewick Corporation. His community service included membership in the Salt Lake City Rotary Club and President of the Pioneer Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.
While his professional obligations always kept Mark busy, he never “refused a calling nor resisted release” within the LDS Church, a principle he always taught his family and missionaries. From an early age, Mark’s parents instilled in him a love for the Holy Scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon and his life-long Church service reflected this abiding commitment. He influenced countless lives for good through his service, and his church callings which included: full-time missionary in the Eastern States Mission; Home Teacher; High Councilor; Mission President of the Indiana-Michigan Mission; Member of the YM/YW General Board; Regional Representative; Bishop; Stake President; Patriarch; and Sealer in the Salt Lake Temple. Mark was able to seal four of his grandchildren to their spouses in the last few weeks of his life, much to the joy of his family. The memories of these recent sealings will remain with Mark’s family forever. Three of Mark’s grandchildren are currently serving full-time LDS missions.
Mark is survived by his faithful and loving wife of 60 years, Lela, and their six children: Stephen Reed of Gilbert, Arizona; Stephanie Young (David) of Sandy, Utah; Stacey Ann Reeder (Martin) of South Jordan, Utah; Margaret Ferry (Benjamin) of Corinne, Utah; Mary Richards (Ryan) of Pleasant Grove, Utah; and Michael Taft (Debi) of Cedar City, Utah. He is also survived by his five loyal and loving siblings: Reed (May), Barbara Walker (Robert, deceased), Beverly Parker (James), Bonnie Madsen (Lowell), and Beth Burton (David). The family wishes to extend their profound gratitude to Mark’s doctors and caregivers, especially to the dedicated staff of Care Source. They also give particular thanks to Mark and Lela’s faithful home teacher of over 30 years, Dr. Merrill Wilson, to the members of the Ensign 1st Ward, and to their dear friends and faithful neighbors, Vernon and Loretta Rice.
A viewing will be held at the Larkin Mortuary (260 East South Temple) on Friday, August 3rd, from 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held in the Ensign Stake Center (135 “A” Street) on August 4th (the birthday of Mark Benson’s father, President Ezra Taft Benson) at 11 a.m. A viewing will also be held prior to the services from 9 to 10:30 a.m at the Ensign Stake Center. Interment services will be held in Whitney, Idaho.