by Jeff Baum
20 years ago, as a sophomore in college, I walked into the old campus school gym and met for the first time the gym teacher, Dick Benjamin. After having a small conversation with him, I was asked a question he probably asked many of you here today. He asked, "Would you like to coach a soccer team?" My reaction as well as yours probably went something like this, "I'd like to, but I don't know how to coach soccer." His response, "It doesn't matter, I'll teach you." Thus became the beginning of our relationships with Dick. Once Dick got us involved into the game of soccer, we were hooked for life.
Dick loved the game. There were not many seasons that went by that he was not coaching a team. One of my proudest and fondest memories of Dick occurred about 15 years apart from each other. While still in college, Dick asked if I would coach with him. This was his under 12 team and his own children, Scott and Tom were on it. Of course, I said "yes!" This was a great feeling to be coaching with him because it now meant that he knew that I had a decent knowledge about soccer. About 15 years after that season, the tables were turned. I asked him if he would like to coach with me and my under 10 team. My son, Justin, was on that team. Never once did he hesitate, of course, he said "yes!" I was so proud to think that I coached as an assistant under him with his children and Dick worked with me as an assistant with my son.
Dick was my mentor. The dictionary definitions states that a "mentor is a friend and advisor." As a matter of fact, he also was a mentor for many of you. He was our friend first and advised us in many ways. He taught us patience. He taught us that if you work hard at something good things will happen. He taught us that we can get along with anybody (Knowing Dick, he would say, "See, I can even get along with Jeff!") He taught us that you don't need to raise your voice when communicating. Even though, I can vouch that he was loud once and only once during an under 10 soccer game. Remember that, Bob Morgan! He taught us the game-the game he loved. The game he brought to thousands of Oswego children. Which through his mentoring, also brought to thousands of town of Mexico youth. Today, we are all poorer with the loss of Dick. Dick touched the lives of all he knew.
Many of you knew him as Dick, Mr. Benjamin and if you went to the old campus school, he was known as Mr. "B". I can hear Anthony say, "Hey Mr. B!" My boys coined a new name for Dick. In their eyes, he was always affectionately called, "Mr. Soccer Man." "Dad, Mr. Soccer Man is on the phone." What people called him really did not matter because once you knew him he became your friend, a friend forever.
I knew him as someone who lived up to the standards that God demands from us all.
Dick's death reminds us that life is short and that only those are remembered who have lived it to the fullest and given back a lot in return. Sure, he is not around us, but every time we meet someone as positive and motivated as Dick we will recall his name with fondness.
Dick's physical presence has been taken away from us. But I believe that his memories will always be there. Our relationship with Dick is like that of a mother and a child. Born with a physical connection through the umbilical cord, which still lives on even after being severed. That bond is everlasting and ever nourishing.
I simply wish that if Dick were to be born again on this beautiful planet may he live the same life that he did and leave many more people blessed and touched by what he brought with him.
Thank you Dick Benjamin for allowing us to be a part of your life.