Benefit to aid former firefighter's family

Friends and associates of Duane Arnold Benefield affirmed that he was many things to many people in his lifetime. Above all, though, they say he was a giver.

However, this giving Locust Grove man has left behind a wife and children. He died on July 8, at the age of 61.

"He had a true servant's heart," said Clayton Fire Chief Jeff Hood. "It was evident in working with the Boys Scouts and serving the people of Clayton County."

Hood said he first met Benefield in 1978, when joined the Clayton County Fire Department. Benefield was an advanced paramedic, or paramedic sergeant, for the department.

"From time to time, I would ride with him," Hood said. "First thing that comes to mind with Duane is that he had one of the best bedside manners that I have ever seen in my career."

Benefield served at several Clayton County fire houses during his 30-year career. He was a member of the Fraternal Order of Firefighters, and served on the Honor Guard for the fire department.

"He was a fine fellow," said David Wilson, a retired sergeant with the Clayton County Fire Department. Wilson said he befriended Benefield more than 30 years ago. He said Benefield worked as a technician, on his off days, in the Emergency Room Department at Henry Medical Center in Stockbridge.

Benefield had reached the status of Eagle Scout, and spent more than 50 years in scouting before his death. His family noted in his obituary that he was a Wood Badge Staff Leader with a Wood Badge for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and a Silver Beaver.

Family and friends said the veteran scout was known as "Poppa Bear" and "Doober." Wilson said "they filled the hall" of First Baptist Church of Locust Grove to pay tribute to their friend on July 11.

"It was very heart-warming," he recalled. "It was a very nice funeral. There were a lot of firefighters, retired firefighters, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and I even saw some Girl Scouts."

Wilson spoke softly, as he worked throughout the day Thursday, nailing sheet rock in a log cabin that is under construction. The 1,750-square-foot structure is the manifestation of his, and others' efforts, to replace the Benefield home just south of Locust Grove, which was destroyed in a fire last summer. Wilson explained that Benefield's wife and children are currently staying at friend's rental property in Stockbridge.

Wilson said Benefield had started the home-construction project shortly after the fire, but could not complete rebuilding his family's home because his health quickly declined. To assist his friend's family, Wilson is also heading up a benefit, that he and other friends are hosting in Benefield's honor on Saturday, July 23.

It includes a motorcycle ride and silent auction to raise money to assist the family with medical costs and costs associated with building the log cabin. It is set to take place, from 9 a.m., until 2 p.m., at Salem Baptist Church, at 1724 Ga. Highway 155 North in McDonough.

Wilson said the ride will start at 9 a.m., at Salem Baptist and will journey through Locust Grove to Musella, Ga., and back to McDonough. The cost is $20 per vehicle. Riders are encouraged to sign up early. The silent auction will follow the ride.

He added that donations will be accepted. To learn more, call Wilson at (770) 527-6051.

In death, Benefield leaves behind a wife of 42 years, Jean Benefield; children Jessica, David, Adam and Kimberly; grandchildren, Sahara, Samantha, Bryan, Rex and Douglas; sisters, Donna Holcomb and Adrenne Deason; and several nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins.

"Duane Benefield will be remembered those that knew him as someone that could tell a great story, loved to sing, and was a wonderful family man and friend," added family friend, Melissa Ingram. "He will be greatly missed."