He was a helpful hand at the transfer station off Patchen Road, a smiling face driving the school bus, an active and creative mind tending to boards and services throughout the city, a sweet tooth that regularly delivered hot chocolate and donuts to city staff – no matter where you met Patrick Benner, his heart was always in the right place.
On April 15, 2019, Patrick Benner Sr. passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59. He was born Dec. 18, 1959, in Philadelphia, Pa., and moved to South Burlington in 1997. Though his passing is a great loss to the community, the effects of his service and character still ripple through many parts of the city.
Benner served as an active member of the Board of Civil Authority, was a dedicated Justice of the Peace, a notary public and was on the Board of Abatement. Benner’s duties varied from performing civil marriages, hearing appeals regarding assessed values and working with the City Clerk in running all elections, including maintaining the voter checklist, testing tabulating machines and working the polls on election day.
“I will always remember Patrick as someone who always wanted to help in any way that he could,” recalled South Burlington City Clerk Donna Kinville. “He loved being a Justice of the Peace and all the duties that came with it. Patrick loved performing weddings and the bridal couples would compliment him on how special he made their day. Patrick loved to come and visit us here at the Clerk’s office and would always bring a coffee until he found out that I preferred hot chocolate, so it became hot chocolate much to the rest of the staff’s dismay.”
Kinville also remembers his polite “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” responses and serious dedication to his commitments.
“As a member of our Board of Civil Authority, he was willing to serve as our vice chair and was an active member attending almost every meeting and working almost every election.”
For over seven years, Benner was also an active member of the South Burlington Democrats and fulfilled the role of secretary. Member Chris Shaw attested to Brenner’s enthusiasm.
“He was the first to volunteer when tasks were needed on all the boards and committees that I served with him on, and he was happiest to help anyone in any way,” Shaw said. “He was sincere and most active in finding needs and meeting them. It is a great loss to the city. He served with great pride and honored us all with his efforts.”
In a letter to the editor, Shaw also wrote: “For those of us who knew him personally, he was a gregarious and heartfelt man who took the time to talk and engage with you on any topic and help you in any way he could. Whether it was a quick coffee, beer or light meal, you could count on Patrick to quickly make time to meet with you to brighten your day or inform your work together.”
City Councilor Thomas Chittenden had this to say of Benner: “Patrick Benner was a dedicated South Burlington volunteer who inspired passion on many important issues and we are a better city because of his contributions.”
Some may recall Benner’s amiable demeanor when he worked at the Chittenden Solid Waste District off Patchen Road. He was also a substitute bus driver for the South Burlington School District.
“Patrick always went above and beyond the basics and was diligent about doing a complete job, whether it meant cleaning up the leaves dropped off by residents or guiding people in for safe parking,” wrote Maurice Mahoney in a letter to the editor last week. He later added, “Patrick was a very conscientious person and was a huge asset to South Burlington for all of his volunteer work.”
Benner’s commitment to the community extended to safety. An avid teacher of home protection classes and personal protection, a concealed weapons permit instructor in Utah and Florida and a member of Vermont Emergency Management, Benner was always eager to share his knowledge. As the coordinator of more than 65 Neighborhood Watch groups in the city, Benner was an active participant in community safety forums and worked closely with the police department in the making of National Night Out, an initiative aimed at crime and drug prevention awareness and strengthening neighborhood and police-community partnerships. He even devoted time to refreshing the force’s motorcycle. Some general safety tips from Benner can be found in the March 24, 2014 edition of The Other Paper, “Common Sense Tips for Everyday Safety.”
Benner was strongly rooted in his faith. He was a fourth-degree knight as a member of the Knights of Columbus, and he received his doctorate in philosophy and religion with masters in psychology from The Universal Church of Christ through UCLA.
Though there were many facets of Benner’s life that he deemed important, it was his family and friends and the ability to connect on a deep level with others that he held in the highest regard.
Benner is survived by his wife of 38 years, Loreen M. Benner, as well as his three children; Christopher Benner and his wife; Patrick M. Benner Jr. and his wife; and his daughter Anne-Marie Benner. He leaves his siblings, Debra Rutkowski, Kelly Cunningham, Barbara Ann White, and their spouses, as well as Edward Wood. He is also survived by his nieces, nephews, and three grandchildren.
“He loved the kids, he loved me, he loved his work as Justice of the Peace ... he loved it all,” Loreen Benner said.
With one incredible chapter ending, another begins. Benner’s daughter Anne-Marie lives in South Burlington and welcomed a baby girl the morning of May 6. Though the family dearly missed Benner’s presence and Anne-Marie very much wanted Benner to have a chance to hold his granddaughter, Loreen assured her daughter that, from heaven, “He’s holding her now.”