Marjorie Mather Beneke

Honored by:Janet S. Beneke
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We honor Marjorie Laurene (Mather) Beneke, our mother and grandmother, as a heroine to her family and her community. She was born on April 1, 1920 on the family farm near Laurens in rural Pocahontas County, Iowa and died on February 23, 2006 in Roseville, Minnesota. Marjorie Beneke’s parents were William Ray Mather and Katherine Charlotte (Roewe) Mather.

As a child, Marjorie attended the Laurens Consolidated School, graduating from Laurens High School in 1937. She attended the Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) and received a teaching certificate in 1939. She received a B.A. from Iowa State University in 1970.

On September 5, 1948, Marjorie married Raymond Rudolph Beneke, also of Laurens. They had two children, Janet, born in 1951, and Patricia, born in 1955, and lived in Ames, Iowa where Raymond was on the economics faculty at Iowa State University and Marjorie was a homemaker and educator.

Marjorie’s dedication to family and community, her work as an educator, and her remarkable personal attributes serve to inspire us. Marjorie Beneke was dedicated to excellence. She maintained a beautiful and immaculate home and loved her garden. Ames was at a crossroads and Marjorie often had relatives, friends, and Raymond’s former students visit. She could set an extra place at the dinner table without effort. She was an excellent seamstress and made beautiful smocked dresses. Marjorie taught her family the benefits of hard work and discipline.

Marjorie devoted a great deal of energy to supporting the activities of the Department of Economics at Iowa State University, particularly while her husband Raymond served as Chair of the Department from 1973 until 1984. She traveled with her husband in support of his work, making annual trips to professional meetings and several trips to Peru, Africa, and elsewhere. Marjorie entertained with ease and hosted many an Economics Department reception in her home. She was actively engaged in Economics Women. Her non-salaried contributions to the Department and ISU were substantial.

Marjorie Beneke dedicated her professional life to excellence in education. She had a special talent for teaching children to read. She taught the first and second grades in Otho, Sibley, Rockwell City, and Ames. She went back to college and obtained her bachelors degree from ISU in 1970. She was employed by the Ames Public School system as a teachers’ aide at Sawyer Elementary School for many years. This vocation was a particularly good fit given her rapport with children.

Marjorie Beneke was independent. During World War II she left the familiarity of northwest Iowa and worked during the summer for the State Department in Washington D.C. as a cryptographer trying to crack the enemy code. Marjorie never said that she could not do something. As a consequence, in addition to what you might normally expect of a homemaker, she was a carpenter, plumber, and mechanic. She used to say she was a "household engineer." In many respects she broke out of the traditional female role before it was in vogue to do so.

Marjorie exemplified strength. Her motto in the high school yearbook of 1937 was "She’s little but she’s mighty." She was never afraid to "spout off" when she thought someone was in the wrong. In any crisis she was always solid as a rock. Perhaps a Depression-era childhood helped to instill this quality.

Marjorie was a caring friend and good neighbor. She belonged to the ISU Faculty Women’s Club and the KC Chapter of the PEO Organization. She was an active member of the Collegiate United Methodist Church for over 50 years. She had many close and enduring friendships and associations in Ames.

Finally, Marjorie Beneke was devoted to her family. She was a wonderful mother to Janet and Patty, and grandmother to Ann Laura and Kate – patient, caring, and understanding. She was also a devoted wife. Raymond acknowledged that she was entitled to generous credit for the role she played in his life and career. In his words "I married a remarkable woman who has been both a joy and a source of unflagging support in good times as well as bad." She maintained unusually close relationships with extended family – brothers and sisters, in-laws, nieces, and nephews.

Marjorie Beneke dedicated her life to being an extraordinary wife, mother, and grandmother, a talented educator, and a significant contributor to her community. We pay tribute to her for her accomplishments and her outstanding personal attributes.

Honored by: her daughters, Janet S. Beneke and Patricia J. Beneke; and her granddaughters Ann E. Butkowski, Laura K. Waters, and Kathleen M.Waters 2/08