Frankie Roudabush Benda

Honored by:Jo Ann Benda
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Frankie Roudabush Benda was my mother. From her I received the strong message that women could do or be whatever they chose. She developed two careers before marriage and family and redeveloped both of them after all her children were in school, still keeping family her priority. She impressed on me the importance of being myself and doing what was right in my conscience whether it was the popular thing to do or not. A synopsis of what I know of her life is below; some big events, some not.

Frankie Iris Roudabush was born near Belle Plaine Iowa on January 1, 1919, to Ina Beck Roudabush and Ira Roudabush. She was the third of four children: Emerson, Lelah (Harries) and Dorothy (Weaver). Her childhood as I knew it was difficult as much of it spanned the Great Depression. The family traveled between Iowa and Michigan looking for work, not uncommonly living on the welfare of friends and family.

She graduated from high school in Belle Plaine, Iowa. From there she went to college at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to obtain a two-year teaching certificate. She supported herself through college by living with a family and doing domestic chores and baby-sitting. Following college, she taught school in Tama and Chelsea, Iowa. (I was intrigued when I found a copy of her contract that stipulated that marriage was reason for dismissal). Here she met Arnold Benda, whom she later married after a long interlude because of World War II.

While he was in China, she undertook training in Physical Therapy at the University of Iowa. She worked as a physical therapist, treating recovering soldiers from WW II as well as treating patients afflicted during the polio epidemic of the 1940's. After marriage on October 12, 1946, they lived in Brooklyn, Iowa. They had three children: Penny (1948), Jo (1949) and Jon (1954).

In 1952 she developed Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer. As told to me, she prayed only that she be able to raise her children, though at that time she wasn't given much hope for cure. Though she had multiple recurrences and therapies, she did not succumb to the disease until 1980.

When her youngest child went to school, she returned to practicing physical therapy, seeing patients at her home or visiting them in their homes. After recurrence of her cancer and more therapy which left her without the physical strength required for physical therapy, she returned to teaching school, specializing in children with learning disabilities.

Her next goal was to obtain a four-year college degree. She took correspondence courses and summer classes though she was never able to complete the degree because of further cancer recurrences. Her determination was remarkable in not giving up the pursuit of her goals in the face of adversity.