For more than 50 years, James “Jim” Benken exemplified the role of firefighter in Wyoming, Ohio. Jim joined the department in 1966 as one of the first members of the newly formed cadet class, and later he was a member of the first paramedic class. During his fire and EMS career, Jim held many positions and was promoted to chief at age 33. He held the rank of district chief at his passing.
He served while pursuing a full-time teaching career in Indian Hill until his retirement in 2002. Jim’s favorite pastimes were fishing and talking about the weather.
Jim was a quiet man but would do anything to help someone in need. His passions were fire, EMS, and teaching youth—teaching high school students the ways of navigating business and entrepreneurship, giving tours of the firehouse to local boys and girls, showing the workings of the trucks and equipment at local events, and most of all training new cadets, paramedics, and firefighters.
Over the years, he took part in flying with some of the first medic helicopters in our area, went to hazmat training for two weeks, and worked with the Critical Incident Debriefing Team in Ohio. Jim was named 1988 Citizen of the Year in Wyoming, 2010 Firefighter of the Year, and over the years received multiple unit citations.
District Chief Jim Benken passed away on April 14, 2017, from a heart attack after returning home from a shift where he responded to an emergency call. Jim is survived by his wife, Mary; his son, Chris, a Cincinnati firefighter and paramedic, and wife, April; his daughter Cindy, a physical therapist at University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and husband, Bradford Rodgers; and four grandchildren, Ainsley, Rowan, Madison, and Kellen. In addition, he is survived by three brothers, Bob (BJ), George (Angie), and Don (Laurie), and their families.
His daughter put it best in her eulogy: “Dad was not a talkative man at times, but you knew he was present. He was a loving father to me and Chris, loving husband of nearly 46 years to my mom, and servant to all he met along the way. He dedicated his life to selfless service to everyone, and I can see it in the outpouring of love we have felt from family, friends, coworkers, and former students who have reached out to us the past few days. He leaves a legacy that will always be felt in my heart and in the hearts of all those many people that he served with and whom he served.”
Jim touched many lives over his 65 years, and his death will be felt by many for years.