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updated: 4/11/2012 5:53 PM

Geneva woman was longtime teacher, tireless volunteer

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  • Second-grade teacher Mary Bencini works with student Angie Crowe on Crowe's Valentine's Day letter in 2006 at Western Avenue Elementary School in Geneva.

       Second-grade teacher Mary Bencini works with student Angie Crowe on Crowe's Valentine's Day letter in 2006 at Western Avenue Elementary School in Geneva.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Mary Bencini of Geneva represented the Geneva Academic Foundation when it won the 2011 Geneva Giving Tree contest at the Geneva History Center. The former schoolteacher was involved in several causes around town, including the foundation, the history center, the Cultural Arts Commission and the Strategic Plan Advisory Commission.

       Mary Bencini of Geneva represented the Geneva Academic Foundation when it won the 2011 Geneva Giving Tree contest at the Geneva History Center. The former schoolteacher was involved in several causes around town, including the foundation, the history center, the Cultural Arts Commission and the Strategic Plan Advisory Commission.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • The city of Geneva flag flies at half-staff at city hall this week in honor of Mary Bencini, who died Saturday. Bencini was a 30-year teacher in town and very active in retirement with the city, schools and cultural arts. The flag was also at half-staff to honor the late alderman John VanThournout, who died April 6.

       The city of Geneva flag flies at half-staff at city hall this week in honor of Mary Bencini, who died Saturday. Bencini was a 30-year teacher in town and very active in retirement with the city, schools and cultural arts. The flag was also at half-staff to honor the late alderman John VanThournout, who died April 6.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The city of Geneva flag flies at half-staff at city hall this week in honor of Mary Bencini, who died Saturday. Bencini was a 30-year teacher in town and very active in retirement with the city, schools and cultural arts. The flag was also at half-staff to honor the late alderman John VanThournout, who died April 6.

       The city of Geneva flag flies at half-staff at city hall this week in honor of Mary Bencini, who died Saturday. Bencini was a 30-year teacher in town and very active in retirement with the city, schools and cultural arts. The flag was also at half-staff to honor the late alderman John VanThournout, who died April 6.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

Geneva's Mary Bencini will be remembered as a passionate woman, intent on making Geneva a better place to live, work and play.

Visitation for Bencini, who died Saturday, will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 21, followed by a 1 p.m. service, at Malone Funeral Home, 324 E. State St.

"She had a real love for Geneva," said Carolyn Hill, who worked closely with Bencini on the "Dancing With the Geneva Stars" fundraiser for the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission and the Geneva Academic Foundation.

Their paths had crossed many times over the last 30 years, as both were involved in various volunteer causes. Bencini was especially passionate about the Geneva History Center and the Geneva Academic Foundation.

"She was always just ready to step up to the plate. ... If there was something to do, you just called Mary, and it was taken care of," Hill said.

Bencini tried to install a sense of responsibility for the community in her students when she taught second grade for 34 years at Western Avenue Elementary School. One of her daily activities was reading the newspaper to students.

"I want them to be people who are active in their community. They should know they can make a difference," she said in a 2006 Daily Herald story about her retirement.

Bencini died Saturday night, after passing out behind the wheel of her sport utility vehicle near the Pure Gardener store at 502 W. State St. She could not be revived at the scene, and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at Delnor Hospital.

Bencini, 63, won the Wood Community Service award from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce -- the town's equivalent to citizen of the year -- in 2008. She was divorced and did not have children. In that 2006 interview, she said she considered her students her family; she kept in touch with many well beyond their elementary school years.

"She was such an energetic woman. She was just a woman for all seasons," Alderman Ron Singer said at this week's Geneva city council meeting.

Alderman Sam Hill, noting the passing also of former Alderman John VanThournout this week, remarked about their willingness to serve.

"They were both wonderful people. They represent probably ... the penultimate of volunteerism that we've seen in this community, by people who are willing to give of their time freely and successfully," Hill said.

Bencini, who was born in Green Bay, Wis., is survived by her mother, Joan C. Hogan, of Green Bay; five sisters; two brothers; 16 nieces and nephews; and eight grand nieces and grand nephews. She was preceded in death by her father, Richard.

For additional information on the April 21 visitation and service, call Malone Funeral Home at (630) 232-8233 or visit malonefh.com.

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