Benston earns state history group’s award

Letters of support show respect and affection for Springfield woman.

The Saturday program at which the Ohio History Alliance will honor Anne Benston with its Individual Achievement Award will last just a few minutes.

But the letters supporting the 90-year-old’s nomination show Springfield’s history community will long appreciate the countless hours she has spent unearthing area history and the joy with which she’s shared it.

In a brief introduction to the nomination packet, Clark County Historical staffers Kacey Eichensehr and Natalie Fritz took a stab at summarizing the range of Benston’s contributions:

“She has walked and read the stones of dozens of cemeteries, taught through living history demonstrations, toted old newspapers to be microfilmed, abstracted dusty old newspapers, conducted genealogical research, assisted researchers, written hundreds of biographies, held board positions in historical organizations and served as our living memory keeper.”

The letters themselves show Benston’s hard-work and sharing spirit have earned her not just the respect of those around her but their enduring affection.

“Rarely in the course of human events does one have the privilege to encounter a gracious individual that, despite her humble demeanor, has made a major difference not only in her beloved community but also in the lives of individuals she has genuinely touched,” wrote Paul “Ski” Schanher, co-author with Benston of “Beautiful Ferncliff,” a history of Springfield’s historic cemetery.

“We have often heard the age-old saying, ‘You have forgotten more than I know,’” Schanher added. “That certainly applies to Anne.”

George Berkhofer, president of the Heritage Corp. of South Charleston and former director of the Clark County Historical Society, was as effusive in his letter:

“It is virtually impossible for me to say enough good things about her. No matter what institution, she is a caring, moral individual who always wants to do what is right and hopefully assist others on that course. And, I might add, her knowledge of history and genealogy is encyclopedic.”

William A. Kinnison, former president of the Clark County Historical Society and a historian himself, said Benston’s “numerous contributions” to Clark County History “are unmatched here and in most communities.”

“For half a century and longer her enthusiastic efforts in the work of the Clark County Historical Society (which she served three times as president) has been remarkable.”

The Historical Society in 2003 recognized Benston’s outstanding service with its Benjamin Prince Award.

Benston’s willingness to help others is singled out in a couple of letters.

At work on a book she’ll call “The National Road Through Ohio,” Cyndie Gerken, past president of the Ohio National Road Association wrote: “Anne has been repeatedly and enthusiastically willing to assist me in finding references, newspaper articles and photos for my project. She has a way of making you feel like she has nothing better to do than help you.”

“I am constantly amazed at her ability to recall a reference or newspaper article at a moment’s notice.”

Tamara K. Dallenbach, public historian at the Turner Foundation, said much the same.

While working on her book “Ridgewood in the Country Club District,” she wrote, “Anne sat side-by-side with me for more than two years as we made our way, page by page, through 30 years of newspapers mining for any and all mentions of our subject matter.

“I can think of few people who would be that generous with their time in order to further the cause of preserving and promoting local history.”

“She is simply a gem,” concluded Dallenbach. “And I feel it’s one of the great joys of my life to call her my mentor and my friend.”

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