FORT LORAMIE — The Fort Loramie Education Foundation (FLEF) will welcome Donald Bensman and Gary Bensman into the Fort Loramie Schools Wall of Honor during a ceremony planned for Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. The ceremony — which is open to the public — will be held at Fort Loramie High School.
Don Bensman was born to Leo and Norma Bensman and raised on a small farm outside of St. Patrick with his siblings Joan, Linda, Betty, and Mel. Growing up on the farm, Don learned the value of hard work and utilized this trait during his years in the Fort Loramie school system and throughout the remainder of his life.
After graduating from Fort Loramie High School in 1956, Don spent a few years working in the construction industry before beginning his career as a machinist with a fledgling company named Sidney Tool & Die, which was owned at the time by two brothers, Bob Sargeant and John Sargeant. Through hard work and perseverance, Don quickly rose through the ranks within the company and soon became a co-owner of Sidney Tool & Die. Eventually, Don became president of the company and served in such capacity for many years until shortly before his death in 2000.
Don’s relationship with the Sargeants spanned four decades and spawned the creation and growth of numerous other local businesses. Over the years, Don and the Sargeants provided financial assistance and management expertise to other entrepreneurs that lead to the creation of Sidco Industries, SMT Industries, Sidney Pattern Works, HB Products and Tower Steel. In recognition of the good fortune that had been bestowed upon him as a business owner, Don always believed that he had an obligation to assist others who wanted to start their own business and make their mark in the community. Seeking yet another challenge later in their careers, Don and the Sargeants created Bensar Developments and Sidney Warehousing which became leaders in the industrial warehousing business in Shelby County, eventually managing and operating over 3,500,000 square feet of industrial and warehouse space.
In addition to his numerous business activities, Don was also a civic-minded person who was a community leader not only within the Anna community, but throughout Shelby County. Don’s community activities were varied and included his involvement with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in McCartyville and its accompanying Knights of Columbus, his service on the Franklin Township Board of Zoning Appeals and Community Reinvestment Board, his leadership on numerous fundraising and levy committees for the Anna Local Schools, his support of the Anna Branch of the Shelby County Libraries, and his long-term leadership on the boards for the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation of Shelby County.
Don’s most lasting effect on the Chamber of Commerce was his success in encouraging the expansion of membership to businesses located in communities outside the city of Sidney, which resulted in the membership of numerous successful businesses in communities like Fort Loramie, Russia, Anna, Botkins and Jackson Center. Similarly, Don’s focus on the Community Foundation was to increase the awareness of the Community Foundation and to increase the donor base within these same rural communities. Having been born and raised in Fort Loramie, Don realized the importance of these communities to the overall prosperity of Shelby County.
In his later years, Don increased his focus on philanthropic endeavors. Don always believed that it was his obligation to give back to the community that had provided him with such great opportunities in life. Due to his business success, Don was able to fund numerous charitable organizations and charitable projects throughout the Anna community, Shelby County and the surrounding areas. At the time of his death, Don was working to establish a family foundation that was affiliated with the Community Foundation. Through this foundation, Don’s family has been able to continue his support of charitable causes throughout Shelby County and the surrounding areas for the two decades since his death and will continue to do so for generations to come.
In addition to the foregoing achievements, Don was most proud of his family – his wife of nearly forty years, Evelyn, who always supported Don in all that he did, and his children Nick, Dan, Dale and Diane. Don set a great example for his children and still provides a guiding light to his children more than twenty years after his passing. In light of Don’s lifetime spent promoting Shelby County, it is not surprising that all of Don’s children have also chosen to live and raise their families in Shelby County.
Don would have been extremely proud to have been here today to personally accept this honor of becoming a member of the Fort Loramie Schools Wall of Honor. On Don’s behalf, the Bensman family would like to thank the Fort Loramie Education Foundation Wall of Honor Committee for the recognition of his lifetime achievements.
Gerald “Gary” Bensman is a lifelong resident of Fort Loramie and a 1963 graduate of Fort Loramie High School. He has spent his life working in careers and volunteering for the betterment of our community and school system. Gary is the oldest of eight children of Werner and Euleta Bensman and grew up working on the family farm where the values of education, hard work, giving back to the community and our country, strong faith, and dedication were instilled.
After high school graduation, Gary enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Army Reserves for eight years. He continued to work on the family farm, sell Universal Guarantee Life Insurance, and worked at LeRoi Dresser for 4 years. He found his career home for 21 years at Midmark Corporation (formerly known as IE Industries) working his way up through the ranks to manager of IT, implementing a new information system for the company and to internal manufacturing system consultant.
Gary also was involved with his wife’s business, Emmy’s Bridal and Specialty Shop. They owned and operated the successful, local business for 20 years, selling it in 2000. As business owners in Fort Loramie, they were involved in creating the Chamber of Commerce and supported local and school activities and events.
Gary served the village of Fort Loramie as a councilman from 1981-1987 and as mayor from 1987-1999. With the support of a community passed levy, and a progressive council and mayor, the beginning of the industrial park became a reality bringing business, jobs and revenue to the village and school. The Community Improvement Committee was created to bring new businesses and developments to Fort Loramie enhancing village growth, tax revenue, and benefits to the school and the community.
As mayor, by working together with the village council, Community Improvement Committee and the Planning Commission, and many community and school groups, Fort Loramie also saw the expansion and annexation of land for the Fort Loramie Youth Park, a new library with “Friends of the Library”, housing and commercial developments, a new water tower and maintenance building in the industrial park, updated sewer systems, recycling program implemented, 911 emergency system implemented, new businesses and industrial park expansion.
The next stop in Gary’s employment history was as the Shelby County Regional Planning Director from 1999-2011. This position really captured everything that he had learned and worked on in all other career experiences and was a perfect fit for him and for Shelby County. Gary worked with county commissioners and public entities to approve and implement the comprehensive plan for Shelby County including goals and objectives for improvements in zoning, sewage systems, thoroughfare issues, assisting townships, economic development, administering grants and growth in the county.
He worked with and formed alliances with Dayton and Lima area Planning Directors to encourage new industrial growth in Shelby County. Gary worked on low-income housing projects in the county receiving CHIP grants and was involved with all of the Shelby County communities, schools and townships promoting industrial and housing growth, developing their own Community Improvement Committees, and working to make Shelby County a better place to live, work and raise families.
After retiring in 2011, he happened upon a new opportunity to be on the Board of Trustees for Edison State Community College representing Shelby County from 2017-2021. During his tenure on the Board the Edison State Community College saw much growth, new program implementation and new satellite campuses, as well as great utilization of the College Credit Plus benefitting many students in our area. He continues to support and participate in Edison State fundraisers, sports events and activities.
Gary was involved in some way with many of the community organizations of Fort Loramie, as an officer, or volunteer for the many events, or financially supporting the needs of those organizations for the betterment of the school and community. These include GYM, youth sports, 4-H, encouraging school levies with phone campaigns, The Olde-Time 4th of July building the stands and cleaning up when it was over, Booster Club, Band Boosters, Lake Loramie Improvement Association. Gary has always been an avid supporter of the Fort Loramie Redskins going to all of his kids and grandkids games, concerts and activities.
He and Emily (Kunk) have been married for 56 years and they have two children, Pam (Ron Frey) and Frank (Jennifer Barhorst), eight grandchildren, Jon (Katie Hoehne), Devan (Megan Kaiser), Holly, Reyan, Carman and Marlan Frey and Allison (Mitch Boerger) and Natalie Bensman, as well as seven great-grandchildren.