Pastors' Memoirs

Rudolph Benesh, 1919 – 2004

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Rudolph Benesh, better known as "Rudy" was blessed by a life full of love, faith, service and adventure. Born in Wittingau, (Trebon) Czechoslovakia, he had a shared heritage between a Czech father, Ladislav Benes, and a Hungarian mother, Elizabeth Szabo Benes. As many of his generation, WWII had a profound effect on his life, including his service in the Czech National Guard and later the befriending by members of the 16th Armored Division of the United States Army when they liberated Pilzen at the end of the war. Educated at Charles University and Jan Hus Seminary, it was meeting Bishop Paul Garber and receiving a Crusade for Christ scholarship to Southern Methodist University (SMU) that was a turning point in his life. From SMU to Perkins School of Theology, Rudy became ordained as a Methodist minister (and a naturalized citizen), and served Old Mystic and Moodus Methodist churches in Connecticut. His love of education and years of student work brought him to the Wesley Foundation at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., where he married Doris Bryan. Doris and Rudy had two daughters, Rosemary and Patricia.

After a brief period of teaching at North Carolina Wesleyan College, while serving churches in Bunn and Henderson, North Carolina, Rudy and Doris answered the call to enter the mission field. Fluent in Czech, Hungarian, German, and English, Rudy was the perfect person to serve a Czech-Austrian Methodist congregation in Vienna, Austria, from 1966-1971. The Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 resulted in a detour from normal congregation duties when the Methodist church worked with "Servitas" and other denominations to house approximately 1,000 refugees escaping communism and provide them with assistance in relocation around the world. It truly was a blessing to be in the right place at the right time.

  Returning to the United States after five years in Vienna, he brought the family back to the North Carolina Conference and a very rural setting of the Bladen County Charge. (Rudy’s ability to target shoot a rifle to win the turkey shoot served to amaze the local farmers who had never encountered someone quite like him.) The associate pastor position at Washington Street United Methodist Church (Petersburg) enabled the family to return to Virginia. Hopewell/Centenary United Methodist Churches in Chesterfield, New Hope United Methodist Church in New Hope, Va., and finally Mt.Vernon/Tabernacle United Methodist Churches in Toano/Barhamsville each found Rudy focusing on children and the importance of religious education, service to persons with mental illness (taking students to Eastern, Central, and Western State hospitals) and all the other pastoral duties. At each location, Doris left her mark too in the UMC with her hospitality at the parsonage and beautiful gardens, not to mention the inspiration of her vast abilities, despite partial paralysis from polio.

Retirement in 1985 brought the family back full circle to Williamsburg where for the next 19 years love, life, and faith continued to surround them. In 2004, after numerous health challenges, Doris passed away in March and Rudy joined her in heaven in July. The loss of their parents did not mean the loss of the church family as Patty and Rosemary were blessed by the support and comfort of ministers: Kirk Mariner, Dave Rochford, David Hindman, Carlton and Robert Casey. May the spirit of Rudy and Doris, the warmth of their love and service to God live on in the many lives they also touched throughout their ministry.

— Patty Benesh



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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