My father, William Benzon, was born on Jan. 31, 1912 in Baltimore, MD, and died November 21, 1998 in Allentown PA. His parents were Danish immigrants. For about the first sic years of his life he lived with his parents and two older sisters, Karen and Signe, on Curtis Bay in Baltimore in a house which had formerly been a yacht club. The family then moved to Longwood St. He attended Boy's Latin School and, according to his high school year book, was regarded as an intellectual and as the 2nd brightest in his class. He was on the boxing, fencing, and football teams and his favorite expression was "Well blow me down."
He did two years at the University of Virginia, where he managed to run up gambling debts that his father had to satisfy. He completed his college education at Johns Hopkins, graduating in 1934 with a degree in chemical engineering. He then went to work for Bethlehem Steel (initially at Sparrows Point) where he spent his entire career. He entered their "loop" program which was for hotshot college graduates they wanted to nurture. I don't what his initial duties were or how he ended up in the mining division of the company (Bethlehem Mines Corp.). He spent most of his career there and rose to Superintendent of Coal Preparation, a position that was created for him. He stayed in that post until his retirement in 1974. He continued to consult on coal preparation after retirement.
Early in his career he moved to Johnstown Pa. where Bethlehem Mines had its headquarters. There he met my mother, Elizabeth Tredennick, and married her in 1940. I was born in 1947 and my sister in 1951.
What was he like?
He was a brilliant man, attaining an international reputation in his field, coal preparation. He was also a loving father, expressing his love in various ways, including making some very fine things for me and my sister. He made furniture for my sister’s dolls, a high chair, and a very elegant play pen with the letters of the alphabet cut into the slats. He made me a gorgeous Indian headdress – feathers of various kinds, ermine tails, abalone shell ornament, a beaded head band – and various swords and knives etc. as appropriate for various Halloween costumes. He encouraged my sister and me in whatever we wanted to do. When I went off to Hopkins and grew long hair, a beard and mustache, that was OK. And so was going to graduate school in something as impractical as English literature. When, as an adult I needed to borrow money from him because I was out of work, he loaned me money (even after he had retired and was obviously living on a fixed income). He never ever suggested that I "face reality" and move into the corporate world, etc. He knew my intellectual work was important and helped me pursue that, as he has helped my sister pursue her interest in poetry.
He was an intellectual and books were important to him; he had many of them, including many he inherited from his father. I remember a number of Christmas seasons where he read Dickens' A Christmas Carol to the family after dinner on a number of evenings. And he certainly read stories to me before bed as a child – I remember him reading me from Mark Twain, Rafael Sabatini, and others. I was particularly struck by his ability to read dialog so naturally, with expression, like people would actually have said it. He spent a great deal of time helping me and my sister with our homework. He never just told me answers or worked problems. He always asked questions designed to lead me to the answers myself.
My father had an excellent sense of humor, which he slyly attributed to his Danish heritage. He loved Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, and one Jerome K. Jerome, and the Marx Brothers. He was also quite fond for Victor Borge. For one thing, Borge was from Denmark, where his parents were born and raised. Borge's humor was often of a linguistic nature, and my father was interested in language (he owned books by Otto Jesperson, the Danish scholar of the English language, and H. L. Mencken). Borge was a musician and much of his humor involved committing mayhem on various pieces of classical and not-so-classical music.
An Athlete - Golf
He was a good and dedicated athlete. Beyond his high-school sports he was also an excellent swimmer and loved the sea. As an adult he was a cyclist (mostly in his youth, in Baltimore and in his early days in Johnstown) and, above all, golf.
He took up the sport as an adult and pursued it passionately. During his prime – say from 30 though 55 – he had a single digit handicap, even as low as two or three. He kept systematic notes about his game throughout his entire golfing career. One winter he painted golf balls in red nail polish and golfed in the snow. He experimented with putters he either built himself or modified from putters he'd bought. He also had ideas about custom golf shoes which he half-way finished (my sister and I found the half-completed shoes in the basement).
One of the highlights of his life was playing golf at St. Andrews in Scotland (he shot 81 on one round). He read a great deal about the sport, knew its history backwards and forwards, and had a good collection of golf books, including a classic written by a relative of Charles Darwin. It is absolutely clear to me that, as I use music to balance out my intellectuality, so my father used golf to achieve balance in his life.
|Caddie's card, tickets, and scorecards for two rounds at St. Andrews|