A longtime Geneva second-grade teacher and community leader died unexpectedly Saturday night.
Mary Bencini, 63, was driving on State Street in Geneva when she passed out behind the wheel of her vehicle and crashed outside the historic Pure Oil building.
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After retiring from her position teaching second-graders at Western Avenue Elementary School about three years ago, Bencini had remained active in the community and was the executive director of the Geneva History Center.
"She was a wonderful second-grade teacher and had a terrific following of graduated students who would keep in touch with her," said Clyde Jones, a longtime friend of Bencini's.
Friends said she was ill for a number of days before the accident, and a neighbor told Jones that Bencini had the flu.
Bencini struck a potted plant in front of the Pure Gardener, 502 West State St., at about 7 p.m. Saturday, and a passer-by found her unconscious behind the wheel, according to Jones.
Jones said she was taken to an area hospital, but could not be revived.
Police could not be reached for comment Sunday night.
Jones speculated that Bencini was driving to the drugstore near the location of the accident.
Bencini moved to Geneva from Wisconsin and had spent 30 years as a teacher in Geneva.
"She was fun loving and always very interesting in what people were doing," Jones said. "Those were her children. She never had any children. The kids were really her children."
The beloved teacher was also a strong proponent for the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission and the Geneva Academic Foundation and helped make this year's Dancing with the Geneva Stars a success.
Bencini was given the Geneva Chamber of Commerce Wood Community Service Award in 2004.
No information on services was available as of late Sunday night.