Marie Schafer Benson, 90, of Saint Peter died peacefully at Ecumen Prairie Hill care community on January 24, 2021 from complications due to coronavirus. A funeral service with immediate family members was held at First Lutheran Church in Saint Peter on January 27, 2021 followed by burial at Resurrection Cemetery. St. Peter Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorials be given to the Stan and Marie Benson Scholarship at Gustavus Adolphus College.
Marie was born June 20, 1930 in Jackson County, Minnesota to Will and Emma (Welker) Schafer. Her brother, Elmer, was born in August of the following year. They grew up on a series of rented farms in the Lakefield and Okabena areas before the family finally settled in 1946 on their own farm in Minneota Township, south of Lakefield. Elmer’s son, Ronald, still farms there. She was an excellent and determined student throughout her life. Having obtained a merit scholarship after completing Lakefield High School in 1948, she enrolled in Gustavus Adolphus College, the start of a lifelong connection with Saint Peter. She graduated cum laude from Gustavus in 1952 and found employment first as a high school English teacher in Gibbon, Minnesota and then as a school librarian in Mahtomedi.
While at Mahtomedi, she became engaged through the mail to J. Stanley Benson, an Augustana Lutheran Church missionary in Tanganyika, East Africa. Stan and Marie had met at Gustavus, both being active in the Lutheran Student Association. In 1956, Stan finished his first term of missionary service and returned to the United States. Marie and he were married in August 1956 at First Lutheran Church in Saint Peter. Their first home was in Rock Island, Illinois, where Stan studied at Augustana Theological Seminary, while she worked as a high school librarian. Marie gave birth there to her first son, John.
Stan was ordained in June 1959 with a pastoral call back to Tanganyika. Marie, Stan, and John took a freighter ship there, and settled in the remote settlement of Loliondo to work with the Maasai people. A second son, Todd, was born in Arusha in 1960, shortly before Tanganyika obtained its independence from Great Britain and later became Tanzania. Her last child, Jeffrey, was born in 1965, also in Arusha.
After four years in Loliondo and seven at Oldonyo Sambu, she and Stan lived near or in Arusha for almost twenty years until their retirement. Marie was central to the Lutheran missionary circle and wider international community in northern Tanzania, including being a US Embassy consular assistant, board chair for the International School Moshi, Arusha Community Church founder, and International Women’s Club president. Although all her sons were schooled away from home, she ensured that they had all they needed to succeed. She was repository of history, a facilitator of connections, and always willing to assist those in need of information, a means of communication, a good meal, or a night’s rest. She was self-sufficient and self-confident, wholly committed in all her engagements, a blessing to those whose lives she touched.
Retiring to a house on South Washington Avenue in Saint Peter in 1992, Marie and Stan became deeply involved with the Saint Peter community and First Lutheran Church. They received the 2007 Nicollet County Outstanding Senior Citizens award. At the same time, they traveled often around the globe to visit friends and to help their sons build their own families at various locations.
Marie lost her husband, Stan, in August 2013 to leukemia. In 2015, she moved to Prairie Hill, first in assisted living and then in memory care. She received kind and close care from all of the Prairie Hill staff.
Surviving Marie are her son, John, with wife, Cindy, and grandchildren, Claire and Sam; son, Todd, with wife, Betsy, grandchildren, Luke (wife Courtney) and Ellie, and great-grandchild, Noah; son, Jeff, with wife, Barb, and grandchildren, Carlee, Joel (wife Hannah), and Natalie; her brother-in-law, Sterling “Bud” Benson; and her sister-in-law, Florence Schafer.