Town Crier News Staff
A flag dedication ceremony was held in memory of Carol Benson, former Manila elementary social studies teacher, on Friday, Nov. 17. The program started with Mrs. Benson's grandchildren, Jenna and Neal Benson and Miles Gifford, leading the Pledge to the American flag.
Mrs. Benson died Oct. 17. She had served the Manila School District for 26 years and touched many lives throughout her teaching career.
Carol's Flag, written by Manila teacher Mary Kaye Spain, was read by Jenna Benson.
A teacher so young,
Raised the flag each morn,
A symbol to her students,
Of the nation they were born.
Over the great country,
That flag did wave,
Each day a little older,
Yet still honoring the brave.
The years did pass,
The flag was worn,
Until one day,
It became tattered and torn.
The teacher herself
Became older, too.
Retiring one day
Though the flag still flew.
A symbol of country,
A banner of pride,
But now its holes
We can no longer hide.
So today it retires,
To return to the one,
Who lovingly tended it,
High school choir student Ryan Day, former elementary student of Mrs. Benson, sang the National Anthem.
Robin Adams, former student and co-teacher of Mrs. Benson, welcomed students, teachers and family members.
"It is an honor for me to organize this dedication ceremony," Adams said. "Mrs. Benson was dear to me. Social studies is a hard subject but she always made it fun. I looked forward to going to her class. She always greeted her students with a big smile on her face. Later, it was a privilege to be a co-worker with Mrs. Benson. Today, let's honor her."
Superintendent Pam Castor spoke briefly about the lives Mrs. Benson touched.
"She was a great teacher," Castor said. "She had a gift. She would reach out to children. She loved the song God Bless the USA. She was patriotic. She loved Arkansas and the USA and was not shy about it. She could bring calmness to any student. She was truly a great person. We appreciate the opportunity to have had her in our midst. Any success we have today, she has been a part of."
Former student Drew Warren remembered Mrs. Benson.
"There is always one favorite teacher you will never forget," Drew said. "Carol Benson taught me in ways that were fun. We learned the capitals, the states, and the Preamble. I heard the song, God Bless the USA, first in her classroom."
LeeAnn Helms, former student and high school teacher, talked about her memories of Mrs. Benson.
"The first day I met Carol Benson was in 1990 when West Ridge came to Manila," Helms said. "I was nervous about the change. My brother took me over to meet Mrs. Benson. Her favorite color was red and her make-up was always perfect. If any of her students were in the newspaper she cut out the articles and put them on the bulletin board and made us feel proud. She had each of us pick a state and we wore our state-hat all day. She turned file folders into Arkansas folders. She had a little bell she rang. She never yelled, she just rang the little bell to get our attention. She is the reason I chose to be a social studies teacher. She made it a new adventure. I want to follow the example of Carol Benson."
The ninth grade civics class recited the preamble in honor of Mrs. Benson.
A poem, "Carol Benson's Garden," written by her daughter, Rachel Gifford, was read by her granddaughter, Jenna.
Carol Benson's Garden
When she walked on this earth,
Little did she know,
The seeds that she planted
And how they would grow.
From child to adult
She taught many with care.
By example she pruned us
Without being aware.
More than social studies, states, and capitols
Or teaching children to read,
She watered love, care, and happiness onto every seed.
She brought joy and sunshine
And so much more,
She cheered for her Hogs
No matter what the score.
She planted the importance of family
Throughout her short life
As a loving sister, mother and gran
And a devoted wife.
Wearing red, white, and blue
And makeup meticulously applied
She nurtured her seeds,
With patriotic pride.
She strengthened our faith in the Lord above
With her amazing commitment and undying love.
She helped those less fortunate.
She treated everyone the same.
Every seed was special, regardless of his name.
She provided a perfect climate of unselfishness
And kindness mixed with fun,
Even in death, her gardening isn't done.
For her essence is sprinkled
In so many places….
The lives that she has touched
And her grandbabies faces.
For she was more than a mother,
A sister, grandmother, or friend.
She was an angel on earth-
A true Godsend!
Heaven became a better place
When she made it her home,
But it's important to know,
She didn't leave us alone.
For she left us her garden
Beautiful and rare,
For it's marked by her memory, her love, and her care.
By Rachel Benson Gifford
Nov. 15, 2006
The ceremony was closed with the third and fourth grade classes singing God Bless The USA, led by Ryan Day. Day spoke briefly how Mrs. Benson had encouraged him during when he was singing a solo in the elementary Christmas program when he was in her class.
"I was nervous and she told me I would do fine," Day said. "She told me my singing was a special gift from God. Because of her I am able to sing in front of large crowds."
Mrs. Benson's flag was folded, placed in a case and presented to her husband, Nelson.
Also attending the ceremony were her son and daughter-in-law, Ray and Jennifer Benson, her daughter and son-in-law, Rachel and Scott Gifford, and all of her grandchildren, Jenna, Miles, Neal and Meg, her brothers and sisters-in-law, Bob and Bobby White and Scott and Nancy White, her sister and brother-in-law, Lewis and Sue chalk, of Ripley, Tenn., niece Natalie Brown and nephew Randy White, and Mr. Benson's sister and husband, Richard and LaNeal Salter of Germantown, Tenn.