Kindhearted Dr. Ralph A. Benson, age 97, of White Oak, died on July 15, 2017 at UPMC McKeesport. Born April 24, 1920 in Greensburg, he was the son of the late Harry G. and Bessie C. (Baughman) Benson and the husband for 73 years of Mathilda Bendl Benson of White Oak.
Ralph graduated from Greensburg High School in 1938. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree, a Masters Degree and Doctor of Philosophy Degree at the University of Pittsburgh. He worked as a journeyman machinist at the Irvin Works of US Steel and taught Vocational Machine Shop at the McKeesport Vocational School. Dr. Benson was a Vocational Consultant and lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh. He retired as Chief of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Western Region, Vocational Field Office. He was a US Air Force veteran serving during World War II. He graduated from the Pan American School of Navigation in Coral Gables, Florida in June of 1943, where he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, and was assigned to the Ninth Air Force Troop Carrier Command as a Navigator. He served in North Africa, Sicily, the Mediterranean, England and Europe. He was promoted to First Lieutenant, then Captain and was the squadron lead navigator. Dr. Benson resigned from the US Air Force Reserve with the rank of Major. He was navigator on many missions into hostile territory including, dropping paratroopers near Salerno in Italy and landing reinforcements at Naples in Italy, dropping paratroopers in Normandy on D-Day, towing gliders two days later with reinforcements into Normandy, towing gliders to the drop zone in Holland during the Holland campaign, dropping paratroopers across the Rhine for the invasion of Germany, dropping supplies during the Battle of the Bulge. Many missions delivered fuel and supplies to the troops in Europe. At times his missions included returning wounded soldiers to hospitals in England. Medals awarded include: the Air Force Distinguished Unit Service Medal, with Oak Leaf Cluster; the Bronze Star with three Oak Leaf Clusters; the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf clusters; the European, African-Middle East Campaign Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters; the American Defense Medal; and the Victory in Europe Medal.
He was a former member of the White Oak Legion Post 701, the 701 Seniors and the Seniors Golf Group. Member and Legislative Chair for the White Oak AARP 2294, Keener Citizens of St. Angela Merici Church and the Renzie Park Concert Committee. Former Life Member and past president and secretary/treasurer of Iota Lambda Sigma, Pittsburgh Theta Chapter, the vocational teachers fraternity. Dr. Benson was State Treasurer, Pennsylvania Chapter, Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, life member of the Vocational Administrators of Pennsylvania, member and treasurer of the Military Officers Association of America, Pittsburgh Chapter. He was a member of the 9th Air Force Association and the Navigators Observers Association. He served on the Board of Directors for the Human Services of Western Pennsylvania, Inc. He volunteered at the Food Bank in Duquesne. Dr. Benson participated in three research studies by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, GEM (Ginko Evaluation of Memory,) Healthy Aging, and Mr. OS (Osteoarthritis-Prostate).
In addition to his wife, Ralph is survived by his sons, Ralph A. (Jane) Benson, Jr. of Bethel, OH, Lewis B. (Linda) Benson of Sewickley, PA, Joseph G. (Martha) Benson of Murrysville, PA and John F. Benson of White Oak, PA; grandchildren, Emily (Patrick) Benson Reis of Columbus, OH, Anne Benson of Pittsburgh, PA, John Benson and Joshua Benson of Austin, TX, Joseph William Benson of Murrysville, PA; great grandchildren, Vincent Benson of Sewickley, PA, Joseph Patrick Reis, Julie Therese Reis, Gemma Reis, Gianna Reis, and Bella Reis of Columbus, OH; sister, Ruth (Arnold) Colecchia of Greensburg, PA; brother, Harry Benson of Greensburg, PA; also many nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his siblings, Paul Benson, Jean LaValle, Dorothy Ficco, Evelyn Weyandt and Kenneth Benson.
Family and friends will be received at Jaycox-Jaworski Funeral Home and Crematory, 2703 O'Neil Boulevard, McKeesport, PA 15132, on Thursday, July 20, 2017, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Friday, July 21, 2017, from 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, July 22, 2017, 10 a.m., at the Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, with Pastor Michael Ryan officiating. Entombment will follow in the New St. Joseph Cemetery Mausoleum.
Memorials contributions may be made to: Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church or Charity of One's Choice.
Condolences may be shared at www.jaycox-jaworskifh.com
Originally published July 17, 2017.