Dorothy "Dottie" Benko
April 21, 1925 - November 7, 2020
Dorothy Jean Henderson was born in Sinpin, Manchuria, the daughter of missionaries Lloyd and Helen Henderson. When she was just 7 years old, her father was shot and killed while traveling from Manchuria to Korea during a period of civil and military unrest. Her mother continued in the mission field while Dottie and her brother were schooled in Korea. The family journeyed to the US in 1940-1941 at the outbreak of the war, and Berkeley, CA became the family's new home. Dottie graduated from Berkeley High School, then UC Berkeley, where she earned a B.A. degree in Social Welfare in 1947. At the age of 22, she ventured on a cross country road trip to the East Coast. She enrolled in The Biblical Seminary in New York City, where she earned a M.A. degree in Religious Education in 1949.
In 1950, she lived in Visalia for one year, working with youth at the First Presbyterian Church. From Visalia she moved to Medford, Oregon also to work in the church. In 1952, she returned to the Bay Area and transitioned to the medical records field, working at the VA Hospital. Around this time, her immediate family grew when her mother married Rev. O. V. Chamness, giving her a step-dad and three step-brothers who were already dear to her from their time in Korea. In 1953, Dottie met the love of her life, Edward Benko, while playing tennis with friends at UCB. The couple married on January 28, 1956 and settled in Pinole where they started their family with the birth of twin boys and later moved to Santa Rosa where their daughter was born. In 1970, Ed's job with State Farm Insurance Company brought the family to Visalia where she again joined the First Presbyterian Church. Dottie went to work for Kings View Mental Health as a medical transcriber in 1971 and continued there until her retirement in 1994. In the following years, Dottie enjoyed traveling the US with Ed to visit family and friends. She was an active member of the Sweet Adelines, performing in the chorus and quartet groups. After Ed's death in 2011, she continued to live in her Visalia home until 2017 when Walnut Park became her retirement home.
Mom had a beautiful smile, a contagious laugh and a thoughtful nature that endeared everyone around her. Her calmness, cheerfulness, and self-effacing wit defused tension and lightened all occasions. After love for God and her family, Dottie perhaps loved nothing more than conversation. Though she loved to talk and had a wonderful way with words, she excelled even more at listening. She cared deeply about others, and always put the welfare of others above her own.
She was preceded in death by her father Lloyd Henderson, mother Helen Chamness, step-father O.V. Chamness, brother Larry Henderson, step-brothers Robert Chamness and Vaughan Chamness and her husband Edward Benko.
She is survived by her son Brian Benko of Aurora, Colorado, son Barry Benko of Anchorage, Alaska, daughter Mari Wylie and son-in-law Brad Wylie of Kingsburg, her grandchildren Tatyana Benko of Eugene, Oregon and Nicholai Benko of Georgetown, Texas, step-brother Leland Chamness of Oregon, and many nieces and nephews.
Tributes and condolences may be made at www.millerchapel.com
. A celebration of her life is planned for a pending date this Spring in the courtyard of the First Presbyterian Church of Visalia.