Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Marian Benson may not be a native to New Braunfels, but the former Besserung winner and Living Legend has done a lot to shape the town we live in today.
Benson remembers living all over the United States, her father an officer, before her family settled a short while in Denton and then in Austin.
“I grew up in Happy Days,” Benson recalls fondly. “We lived growing up in a time after World War II, a brief time of peace, but even then I loved doing volunteer work.”
After graduating McCallum High School, Benson went on to study government briefly at Trinity University in San Antonio before becoming a flight attendant with Braniff Airlines in Dallas.
“It was around then I met my husband Howard,” she said. “It was a blind date actually, and I don’t even believe in blind dates. I thought — just a cup of coffee then I’ll ask him to leave, but we stayed up talking and really hit it off.”
She and her late husband married three months later, in 1962, and shortly after the couple married their first daughter Debbie while living in Dallas, followed by their son Chris.
“I was very involved in my church,” Benson recalls. “And then we moved to Georgia so Howard could complete his doctorates in political science.”
Benson’s first fulltime volunteer “job” was as a reader for Recording to the Blind at the University of Georgia. It was following Howard’s graduation in 1973 the family moved to New Braunfels when Howard began teaching political science and law enforcement at Southwest Texas State University, today Texas State.
“That was the happiest accident I ever experienced,” Benson said. “We couldn’t find a house in San Marcos, so we settled in New Braunfels — and it was the best thing that ever happened to us.
After a short sting working at the Dallas Apparel Mart during her time in Dallas, Benson decided to open her own boutique in 1983 — “The Collection,” which she ran for 28 years.
“It’s where the county elections office is today,” Benson recalls.
Active on the New Braunfels Downtown Association (which she later served on as president) and New Braunfels Mainstreet Association (which she also served on as a board member), Benson helped take a huge part in revitalizing New Braunfels downtown.
“It’s a person’s responsibility to uphold their community and make it a better and stronger place to live and be,” Benson said humbly.
Benson helped establish the Main Plaza Tree lighting, and Wassailfest. She served as co-chair of the Bandstand Restoration Project, on the board of New Braunfels Main Street Partners, on the Civic Rennovation Advisory Committee and as chair of the Downtown implementation Committee.
She was named 1989 Downtowner of the Year by the Texas Retailers Association, which she also served on as a board member and chair, was named the Small Business Person of the year in 1991, and earned her Blue Coat in 1999 as well as received the Chair of the Board Award for Economic Development as well as the Besserung Award in 2005.
“You don’t have to list all that,” she said. “I just thank my lucky stars every day I live here.”
Recognized in the Hall of Honor, Benson received the Princess of the City of New Braunfels regocnition and has served on the chamber’s Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisor Committee. She is a past president of New Braunfels Rotary Club, past board member of the Sophienburg Museum and Archives, which she still volunteers at, and on the Christus Santa Rosa Foundation.
“I volunteer with the SOS Food Bank and I’m in the choir at my church New Braunfels Presbyterian where I’m also an elder,” Benson mentioned.
Benson served on the New Braunfels Housing Authority and the New Braunfels Area Community Foundation, is a member of Family Promise and is a Braunfels Foundation Trust baroness.
Named a Living Legend in 2017, she has also been on the Texas Legislative Conference Arrangements Committee and co-chaired the Wighnachtsmarkt Vendor Committee for the Sophienburg.
“I believe as this city gets bigger, our hearts need to get bigger,” Benson said. “It’s like when you have a second child. You love them just as much — your heart just gets even bigger and more full of love.”