(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
The Ericsson family -- Bengt-Eric, Ingrid, Anna, Eric, Sofia, and Karin -- were a long way from home but were still among relatives.
Benson planned the celebration in honor of his relatives visiting from Sweden.
Also greeting guests and introducing the Ericssons were Benson's wife, Carol, and children, Ray and Jennifer Benson and Scott and Rachel Gifford.
Friends and family members were delighted to meet the Ericsson family and were especially pleased when the family performed two beautiful Swedish songs.
Benson thanked everyone for coming to the dinner.
"It means a lot to me and my family," he said. "Now when you hear me talk about my Swedish family, you will understand why I am so proud of them."
Everyone enjoyed viewing a display of photographs featuring the Manila Bensons visiting at the home of the Ericsson's. A cake featuring the American Flag and the Swedish Flag centered the dessert table.
"I had to find out where I came from," Benson said.
His grandfather immigrated to the United States from Sweden when he was only seven years old.
His search for his ancestry began more than 20 years ago. The first trip Benson made to Sweden was in 1984 and it proved to be unsuccessful in making contact with his relatives.
"I returned to the States disappointed but not giving up," he said.
He hired a Swedish genealogist and was very excited when he found his family.
"I first made contact with Bengt-Eric in 1995," Benson said. "Allen, Bengt-Eric's father, is a second cousin to my dad, aunt and uncle, Neal, Lockard and Gladys Benson Sudburry.
Benson's next trip to Sweden proved to be one of the highlights of his life with the family waiting on him as they got acquainted.
Bengt-Eric is a farmer, an attorney, and a professional musician, playing the organ and piano and singing in the Lutheran Church.
The Bensons of Manila were early pioneers of the Manila farming industry.
The Ericsson family farm is 700 acres with pasture, forest and some grain. Cattle are raised but the land is more timberland.
The men had farming in common and Mrs. Benson and Mrs. Ericsson had teaching in common. Bengt-Eric's mother is also a retired teacher. The women enjoyed comparing the school systems.
"Bengt-Eric's mother, Britt, taught English and helped me with my Swedish during our visit," Bensonsaid.
The Ericssons enjoyed their second visit to Manila as much as their first visit.
Nelson said the children have grown since their last visit in 1999. This was the first visit for their youngest daughter, Karin, 4-1/2. Anna is 15, Eric 13 and Sofia 11.
Bengt-Eric thanked everyone for their hospitality. He, too, expressed his gratitude for finding his American relatives.