Nelson Ray Benson

Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Nelson Ray Benson

Nelson Ray Benson, 78, of Manila, passed away Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, at the NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro. Born in Blytheville, he was the son of the late Neal and Mittie Crabtree Benson and had lived most of his life in Manila. A 1958 graduate of Manila High School, he was a standout basketball player for the Manila Lions and played in the 1958 Arkansas All-Star game. He later served his country in the United States Air Force before returning home to his life's work on the family farm. As a young man, Nelson was an avid outdoorsman and was a skilled hunter and fisherman. He was an aviation enthusiast, private pilot, and a founding member of the Manila Pilots Association. Nelson was a former longtime member of the Manila Church of Christ and was a current member of the Beedeville Church of Christ.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife, Carol White Benson, and a brother, Gene Benson.

Survivors include his wife, Betty Honey Benson of the home; one son and daughter-in-law, Ray and Jennifer Benson of Manila; one daughter and son-in-law, Rachel and Scott Gifford of Manila; four grandchildren, Jenna Benson, Neal Benson, Miles Gifford and Meg Gifford; two stepsons, Tony Linn Johnson and Jackie Oneal Johnson, both of Beedeville; one stepdaughter, Lorrie Ann Echols of Atlanta, Ga.; six stepgrandchildren, John Griffin Johnson, Elizabeth Johnson, Lauren Echols, Brandon Echols, Braden Echols and Emma Claire Johnson. Nelson also leaves a sister, LaNeal Salter of Germantown, Tenn., and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, at the Howard Funeral Service Chapel in Manila with Dr. Gary Elliott officiating. Burial will follow in the Manila Cemetery.

The family will receive visitors Thursday from noon until service time at the funeral home.

Active pallbearers are Garry Jolliff, John Boyd, Gerald Breckenridge, Griffin Johnson, Hervey Madden and Greg Smith. Members of the Manila Pilots Association will serve as honorary pallbearers.

Friends may sign the online guest register at