I was blessed to have Marg Benton in my life. Marg recently passed away unexpectedly, and as I grieve for her loss, I’m also grateful she was so much a part of my life in Los Banos.
Most people know Marg from her service on the Los Banos Unified School Board, where she had been an elected member since 2016, but she has also served her community in many other ways.
I first met Marg when she became a member of the Los Banos Rotary Club. As a longtime member, I have come to appreciate more and more each person who joins Rotary, willing to put service above self, in a world where fewer and fewer people, it seems, are willing or have time to serve.
Marg was an active member of the Los Banos club and agreed to live by Rotary’s “Four-Way Test,” which asks Rotarians to seek the truth and be fair to all concerned. She practiced service about self, helping in all the club’s fundraisers, including its crab feeds, pancake-and-omelet breakfasts and Empty Bowls. She always served with a smile, because she enjoyed serving others.
When she volunteered to become president of the Los Banos Rotary Club, my admiration for her increased. The presidency is a job I’ve carefully avoided over my 36 years in the organization, and she cheerfully took it on after only a few years with the club.
One of her first jobs as president was to oversee the sale of the club’s fireworks stand for the Fourth of July. The club had been fortunate to have its name pulled out of a hat by the City of Los Banos, which allowed the club, and several other organizations whose names were pulled out of the same hat, to sell fireworks.
Marg was at the stand every day at many different times of the day, including hot afternoons in early July. Unlike me, who often grumbles at the thought of taking a shift in the booth, Marg always sold with a smile. When she and I shared the same shift, I enjoyed the experience.
Our paths crossed again when her mother and my brother were residents at the Dos Palos Assisted Nursing facility. The staff there treated residents and their families with kindness and good cheer, and we enjoyed the times when dinners were scheduled that brought residents and their families together for a good time. (Unfortunately, that facility had to close for financial reasons.)
I also turned to Marg when I needed real estate advice. I was involved in the sale of my step-mother-in-law’s house in San Juan Bautista, and Marg, a real estate agent, took the time to counsel me in the various steps I needed to take to complete the sale, all without asking for a dime.
Later, when I needed to move from a two-story house to a one-story home in Los Banos, Marg was there again to help me every step of the way, first with the purchase of a home both my wife Sandy and I really like, and later with the sale of the house we moved from.
Marg provided as much psychological counseling as real estate advice to both Sandy and me, which both of us sorely needed, and Marg became a good friend to Sandy as well as to me.
I gained even more respect for Marg when she decided to run for the Los Banos Unified School District Board. Once again, she did something I have carefully avoided in my 76 years of life, running for an elected office. She decided to run for the board, she told me, simply because she wanted to serve her community and its schoolchildren.
Along the way Marg brought into my life her partner Lee, her daughter Kara and son-in-law Alex and her granddaughter Lilibet, whom she adored and looked after with great joy.
In reflecting on the many times my path crossed with Marg’s, I somehow feel it was destiny that she would come into my life in many different ways. For that I’m deeply grateful.
I know Lee, Kara, and Alex will miss Marg deeply, as will all the other people who knew her, especially all the friends she made in Los Banos. We all know, however, that her spirit remains with us, especially whenever we or anyone else volunteers to serve–and serves with a smile.
More in memoriams: In my years in Los Banos I was also fortunate to have known two other exceptional persons who have also recently passed away, Ray Talbott and Charley Martin, who had quite different personalities.
Ray was generally soft spoken. When he and his wife Terry were in the same conversation, Terry did most of the talking, which was fine with Ray. He knew he would get a chance to say a word or two, and when he did it was always with a friendly and often witty comment.
Ray was a smart businessman, a caring family man and a person everyone enjoyed being around.
Charles Martin, who I called Charley and others called Chuck, was one of the most gregarious men I’ve ever known. When he and his wife Lois were in the same conversation, Charley did most of the talking, although Lois was always ready to provide a zinger along the way.
Charley was always positive and upbeat. If he wasn’t talking about the newest project he was involved in with the Los Banos Kiwanis, he was praising his favorite football team, Notre Dame, which he proudly advertised with the many ND T-shirts and sweatshirts he wore. Charley always had a smile, even when the Irish lost.
One of the challenges of growing older is losing so many good friends. Nevertheless, I won’t forget all the joy that Marg, Ray and Charley brought into my life.