Melissa Marie (Donehower) Benson died peacefully Monday, March 4 at age 70, surrounded by her loving family following a brave battle with pancreatic cancer.
Melissa was born in St. Paul, Minn., the daughter of Dr. Clifford and Rosemary (Galvin) Donehower. She grew up in West St. Paul and graduated from Sibley High School in 1966. Melissa attended Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., where she met the love of her life and her husband of 50 years, Duane Dean Benson. They were married at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in West St. Paul on June 22, 1968 before moving to California when Duane was drafted to the National Football League by the Oakland Raiders. Following their move to the West coast, Melissa completed her degree in English in 1970 at California State University in Hayward. She created homes for her family in Pleasanton, CA, Atlanta, GA, and Houston, Tex., during her husband’s professional football career.
In the mid-1970s, Melissa and Duane fell in love with the rolling hills of southeastern Minnesota and bought a farm in Lanesboro, Minn. Their daughter Brooke was born in 1971 and their son Jess was born in 1978. Melissa was a loving mother, grandmother, sister and aunt. She was a cherished friend to many, and she was known for her optimism, kindness and sense of humor. Her family and her faith were at the center of her life.
Melissa was joyfully engaged in the Lanesboro community in many ways for over four decades. She was an active member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and often served as a Eucharistic minister, member of the Altar Society and chair of the annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner. She expressed her community spirit through many acts of kindness and volunteerism for multiple organizations including the American Cancer Society, Art in the Park, 4-H, Meals on Wheels, the Lanesboro Public Library and many others.
Melissa was an avid reader and writer throughout her life, and she frequently wrote letters and sent cards to her children, grandchildren, family members and friends. She found great joy in her garden and loved to cook unforgettable meals for those she loved.
Melissa will also be remembered for her sense of fun and the many friendships she formed through Bible study, bridge, bowling, friendship club and through the kind and loving eyes through which she saw the world. Melissa never knew a stranger, and her generosity of spirit will never be forgotten.
Melissa is survived by her children and grandchildren, Brooke Worden, Emma and Lauren Worden, of St. Paul, and Jess (Janet) Benson, Nora and Dane Benson, of Burnsville, Minn.; sister Nancy Allen of Lenexa, Kans.; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband Duane Benson and her parents Clifford and Rosemary Donehower.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, March 8, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lanesboro, Minn., with visitation from 9-11 a.m. at the church.