In Grant Benson Jr., Derry mourns loss of a true pillar
DERRY - Grant Benson Jr. was a true town father in Derry whose history of community service in Derry extends beyond his children to everyone he came in contact with.
Benson, 84, died at Parkland Medical Center in Derry on Saturday.
"He loved the community," said one of his three sons, Brad Benson, who currently serves as the chairman of the Town Council. "He gave back to the community and was always generous. As a businessman, he was a tough guy, but for people and the community, he could not do enough."
Benson was a lifelong resident of Derry, working, raising his family, and contributing to literally dozens of community initiatives and organizations.
"As we started to research what dad did, it was amazing how many things in town started with him," said Benson. "There are not a lot of people anymore who are born and raised and start a business in the same community."
Benson graduated from Pinkerton Academy in 1946 and was inducted into that school's hall of fame in 2006. Following high school, Grant attended UNH and then the Wentworth Institute of Technology.
Benson served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and was the owner and operator of Benson's Lumber and Hardware in Derry.
Among his contributions to the town was time spent on the Derry Budget Committee, helping start the Derry Chamber of Commerce, serving as a board member on the Derry Economic Development committee and on the board of directors for the Derry Development and Preservation Corp.
Benson also helped establish the Derry Dog Park, served on the fire station building committee, the Town of Derry Hardship Committee, the Frost Festival Committee, the Nutfield Senior Center Board, and the Highway Safety Committee.
Brad Benson said his father is the major reason he and his brothers Grant III and Scott contribute to their communities and numerous charitable causes.
"We was adamant that we be involved because it was the right thing to do," said Benson.
Police Chief Ed Garone said Benson put the town first through both his actions and words.
"He was a very generous man, as well, to many of Derry's charities," said Garone. "I loved his wit and spontaneity. I, like many others, will miss him."
Town Administrator John Anderson said he will miss his lunch dates with Benson.
"Grant's smile and the twinkle in his eye will be missed," said Anderson. "His leadership and insight helped to create much of what is great about Derry. His love and dedication to this community was a goal we should all strive to imitate."
Fire Chief George Klauber said Benson's love for Derry helped him to appreciate the town in every sense.
"I did not always understand his perspective, but he would visit me in my office and explain the reasons I should agree with him," said Klauber. "No matter how hard you tried, it was difficult not to eventually see his perspective and agree with at least a portion of his argument."
No matter what the issues were, Klauber said Benson was always looking out for the best interest of the town.
"I will miss his visits to the office, the tales of Derry when he was a kid and teenager, his full speed ahead, let's get it done style at a highway safety meeting, or a meatloaf lunch at any local Derry diner," said Klauber. "The term pillar of the community defines him well."