Tressie Benson; 1912-2013: Retiree, 101, worked in family business


Tressie Benson, office manager in the family business who became a Head Start teacher’s aide, died Monday in the South Toledo home of her son, Escar, Jr. She was 101.

She was in failing health after breaking a hip Feb. 3, son William said.

“Prior to that, she was going upstairs, downstairs, every day, and she took care of herself,” he said. “She wanted to live. She loved life. She didn’t want to leave.”

Her husband, Escar Benson, Sr., opened Dorr Street Auto Repair at 516 Dorr about a decade after the family moved to Toledo from Marks, Miss. He was a longtime mechanic educated at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and at what is now Alcorn State University in Mississippi, son William said. Mrs. Benson had taught in a church-sponsored school in Mississippi and, in Toledo, made a thorough study of what she needed to do to run the office at the auto repair shop.

“She was his secretary. She did all the books and wrote all the bills; all the business side. The taxes. She took care of that,” William Benson said.

They discussed all serious matters that came up in the business and came to a decision together.

“They were a serious team,” William Benson said.

The family lived upstairs from the repair shop. She knew the type of encouragement each child needed.

“She doted over them. They were all different, so she had to direct them in a different way,” son William said.

Her daughter, the late Edrene Cole, who became a principal in the Toledo Public Schools, once told The Blade that her mother and father made clear that hard work and education were the ways out of poverty.

“We all understood that we were going to school as far as we could, and that was that,” Mrs. Cole said in the 1995 interview.

The Bensons’ business and other businesses along that stretch of Dorr were cleared in the early 1970s for what was called urban renewal. Mr. Benson retired. Mrs. Benson became a Head Start teacher’s aide for several years at the former Ryder Elementary School.

Later that decade, after Mrs. Benson retired, her daughter planned summer vacations to Caribbean Islands or Hawaii or Los Angeles or Chicago.

“So her horizons were opening up because she was flying and getting on boats and seeing the world,” son William said.

Mrs. Benson’s daughter also was active in service and social groups and “was always taking Mama with her. It was a bond. If you saw one, you were going to see the other.”

She was a member of St. Paul Baptist Church in Toledo, where she was a deaconess, sang in the choir, and belonged to the Missionary Society and the Genesis Circle.

She was born March 19, 1912, in Mississippi to Rosebud and Columbus Washington Beasley.

Surviving are her sons James, William “Snookie,” and Escar “Billy” Benson, Jr.; 12 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; five great-great-grandchildren, and two great-great-great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. Sunday in the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home Chapel. Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Paul Baptist Church, where a family hour will begin at 10 a.m.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.