By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Grant Benson, Jr. once told the Derry News his family’s lumber and hardware business in town offered a good life for many people.
“It’s been tremendous,” Benson said in a 2005 interview. “There aren’t a lot of businesses like this around, no four generations. It’s been a good life and I can’t complain.”
Friends and family are now remembering Benson following his death Feb. 23 at the age of 84.
The man who once said he lived within a one-mile radius of Derry for almost his entire life credited his family legacy and strong community ties as his own success story through the years.
Benson was heavily involved in not only his business, but also in the dealings and life of his town.
The Benson story began in Derry in 1913 when George Washington Benson, Grant Jr.’s grandfather, operated his small store with a simple vision — a dream to run his own business and offer lumber and coal to the community and surrounding towns.
Years later, Grant Jr. took his own position in the business. His three sons, Scott, Brad and Grant III are all involved in keeping the family name continuing on.
Brad Benson, currently chairman of the Derry Town Council, said his father often had the outward appearance of being stern and demanding, but was actually extremely caring and generous.
“My brothers and I are amazed at how much he accomplished,” he said. “He was a firm believer of how important it is to make a difference in the community and the lives of all that worked for him. He always pushed Grant, Scott and I to get involved and help.”
In addition to his strong work ethic, the elder Benson’s list of community involvement was long.
The U.S. Air Force veteran helped begin the local Chamber of Commerce with other Derry merchants in the living room of his home. He was named the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year in 1965.
He was a member of St. Mark’s Lodge 44, served on Derry’s Budget Committee, was a Taylor Library trustee and served on Derry’s Economic Development Committee.
He also held establish the Derry Dog Park, was a member of the Frost Festival Committee, Nutfield Senior Center board and Highway Safety Committee.
In 2005, Benson was named one of Derry’s “Living Treasures” and was also named to the Pinkerton Hall of Fame in 2006.
Derry Town Administrator John Anderson remembered his friend for his strong leadership and dedication to his hometown.
“Grant’s smile and the twinkle in his eye will be missed,” Anderson said. “His leadership and insight helped to create much of what is great about Derrry. His love and dedication to this community was a goal we should all strive to imitate.”
Town Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said Benson was a good friend to both her and her late husband George — part of a group of citizens who took the community’s well-being to heart in many ways.
“This is like the end of an era,” she said. “(Grant) did so much for this town, people will never know.”
Anderson said Benson will be remembered for not only helping building a family business that has lasted generations, but also for his big heart.
“His legacy will carry on for years to come,” Anderson said. “Grant was a man who you may have disagreed with on policies or positions, but he was always a friend in the end. A truly great man, with a huge love for this community. I personally will miss my lunch dates with him.”
Brad Benson said his father would be remembered for his commitment to his family and his town.
“He loved this community and fought for it every day,” he said. “Our hope is that we will be able to continue to honor the desires and passion our dad has had for this community. We will certainly miss his passion, commitment, smile and sense of humor.”