She’s shared her life and love with Mount Holly

by Sarah Melton

2011 Mount Holly Woman of the Year Wrene “Byrd” Benfield at First United Methodist Church, where she has been a lifelong member. Sarah Melton/MIM photo

2011 Mount Holly Woman of the Year Wrene “Byrd” Benfield’s Mount Holly roots.

Benfield still lives in the same home where she grew up with her four siblings and belongs to First United Methodist Church, in Mount Holly, the same church she has attended since birth.

At age 83, Benfield continues to remain active in the church after years of service. She helped reorganize a children’s choir under the leadership of 32-year choir director and former Mount Holly Mayor Bob Black and has been a member of the United Methodist Women since 1967. She became president of the group in 1984. Benfield became the first female chair of the church’s official board and has held many other positions on the church council.

She has been a member of the sanctuary choir for most of her life, but is also known for collecting children’s chewing gum in her hand before they sing.

“It irritates me to no end to see them up there chewing gum,” Benfield said. “I’ve had it ground in my hand with their thumbs. I never got angry with them. I just went up and said ‘Hand it here.’”

Community members also know Benfield as someone who cares for the less fortunate. For years, she has made herself available to residents for transportation to and from medical appointments. She shares her love of cooking and gardening with her fellow Mount Holly neighbors.

“That’s the way I was taught,” Benfield said. “Mommy and daddy did it. I am blessed with good health and now, I don’t have the money and all that stuff, but I can do this and that.”

As an 18-year nurse at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, helping people has always been a part of her life. Benfield worked the night shift on the hospital’s surgical floor, but didn’t mind the late hours as long as she got some sleep.

Benfield said she was surprised to learn about being nominated when committee members and others came to her house to share the news. One of the visitors, Roger Hawkins, the man that nominated Benfield, sat next to her on the couch while she took the opportunity to jokingly elbow him every so often as a “thank you” for the nomination.

“Roger said, ‘She is going to beat me up,’” Benfield said with a laugh. “I said, ‘You will have bruises all over you.’”

Many friends and community members have taken time to congratulate Benfield with telephone calls and letters.

“One of the girls I used to work with at Presbyterian called me and I said, ‘You’ve got to address me differently now,’” Benfield said. “I told her, ‘I am Woman of the Year in Mount Holly now.’ She said, ‘Oh, you’re a celebrity now?’”

Hawkins said that Benfield encompassed all of the qualities that the nomination committee looked for in its ideal candidate.

“Byrd Benfield represents so many things that are Mount Holly to most of us who are true Mount Holly natives,” he said in his nomination. “Although she would be forever embarrassed to receive this honor, I truly believe that it would be one of the greatest honors this unclaimed jewel has ever known.”

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