Retired cook wins accolades

SIDNEY — The Lehman Catholic High School Alumni Association has announced the school’s ninth annual Lehman Hall of Fame Induction includes two former educators, a retired cook and a Holy Angels High School graduate who was instrumental in merging Holy Angels and Piqua Catholic High School to form Lehman.

The four distinguished individuals – Sister Dorothy William Englert, Elaine Schweller-Snyder, Esther Bensman and Bill Custenborder — will be honored at Lehman Hall of Fame festivities on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.

One inductee of the 2015 Hall of Fame is Esther Bensman who served as school cook for 33 years, beginning her career at Holy Angels High School in 1965. When Holy Angels and Piqua Catholic consolidated to become Lehman in 1970, she remained head cook until her retirement in 1998.

“Esther was always the first one in the building, getting ready for the day,” said co-nominator Eileen Myers. “Most employees of the school were not even thinking of getting up at the time Esther was arriving to begin preparing the meals. Many mornings the smell of her well-known and delicious cinnamon rolls made you happy even if you had had the beginning of a bad morning.”

Indeed, a line in a Lehman cookbook says, “No one can bake cookies like Lehman’s Esther Bensman.” The “Cavalier Cookbook featuring Esther’s Recipes” was published in 1998 (the year of Bensman’s retirement) as a fundraiser for the Lehman Music Department. Inside the book are Esther’s recipes for peanut butter bars, M&M cookies, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, golden krispies, peanut butter cookies, and sugar cookies. The cinnamon rolls are included too as well as everyone’s favorite lunches, creamed chicken in toast cups and Esther’s chili.

“She would make the most deliciously decorated sugar cookies at Christmas and Easter,” said co-nominator Sharon Nerderman. “She would make sure that each staff member received a small box of them to take home. They were the best and Esther was always thinking of others.”

With her slight build, Bensman looked as though she had never eaten a cookie or any of the tasty food she prepared for the Lehman students and staff. Raised in the farmlands of Fort Loramie, Bensman’s secret to providing nutritious, yet yummy food was home cooking techniques and the use of real ingredients like pure butter. When increased government regulations began to dictate the quantity and quality of school cafeteria food, she decided to hang up her spatula.

Myers and Nerderman, who were inducted together into the Lehman Hall of Fame in 2012, worked in the main office at the school.

“I so enjoyed the homemade lunches that she made for the 13 years we worked together,” said Myers. “We hated to see her retire, but were happy that she would get to enjoy some free time with her husband Fred and her family.”

Seventeen years later, that free time is still filled, especially with volunteering for church events that involve the preparation of food. Former Lehman Cook Esther Bensman may have slowed down, but she is never far from the kitchen.

Since beginning this tradition, the Hall of Fame committee has sought to honor not only alumni but outstanding faculty and supporters of Lehman Catholic. The Hall of Fame evening will begin with Mass at 5:15 p.m. in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Chapel on campus. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6 p.m. with dinner to follow at 6:30 p.m. in the Cianciolo Family Gymnasium.