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Bensons celebrate 60th anniversary
When Don Benson and Evelyn Sangster first got together, they seemed an unlikely couple. He was a rough and tumble lacrosse player from New Westminster's downtown. She was an accomplished coloratura soprano and the daughter of the city's mayor, J. Lewis Sangster.
But their relationship blossomed through high school and a year-long engagement. On Wednesday, they'll be celebrating 60 years of marriage.
Their commitment to each other is rivaled only by their dedication to their hometown.
Don has been a fixture at New West's lacrosse boxes and soccer pitches, as a player, coach and administrator.
He was a delegate to the first Canada Summer Game in Halifax-Dartmouth in 1969 and his experience there fueled his involvement in bringing the event to New Westminster and Burnaby four years later.
He started the Royal City Track and Field Club in 1996 to train young athletes and help host elderly ones at the B.C. Senior Games the following year.
Ten years later he helped organize the New West Spartans Track and Field Club to train elite athletes for international competitions.
One of those athletes happens to be Don himself, who started competing in Masters track and field events when he was 70 years old. He's won two Canadian championships in pentathlon in his age category. And in 2010 he carried the Olympic torch on its leg through New Westminster, lighting a special cauldron in Queen's Park in front of thousands of onlookers.
While Evelyn helped Don with many of his athletic pursuits, she was also making her own mark in New Westminster's cultural scene. She sang and acted in musicals put on by Hyack Theatre. When New West secondary school ended their annual productions, she helped form Royal City Musical Theatre along with the late Ed Harrington, an old school chum.
Her contributions to the city's cultural scene earned her a Citizen of the Year award in 1992 and a Lescarbot Award for "contributions to Canadian culture" the following year.
In 1995 Evelyn and Don teamed up to organize First Night, a community celebration of New Year's Eve held at Royal City Centre. Proceeds went to local arts and sports organizations and the event was recognized at the third best mall promotion in North America. Another First Night was held the following year.
Both Bensons are accomplished authors. Don has published three books including Wiresong, a history of the telephone in British Columbia written in verse. His way with words earned him a seven-year stint at New Westminster's poet laureate and he's now the city's poet laureate emeritus.
Evelyn's first book, A Century in a Small Town, is being published later this year. She also participated in Grace, Grit and Gusto, a book profiling New Westminster women who made significant professional, athletic, cultural, social or political contributions.
Through it all the Bensons raised five kids and they now get to enjoy nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Not bad for a lifetime's work. Together.