Charleston, SC – As the tenth anniversary of the Sofa Super Store fire that claimed the lives of nine City of Charleston Firefighters draws near, the Charleston Fire Department has committed to paying a very special, and personal tribute to each of those nine. Starting Friday, the Department’s Facebook page will feature very personalized tribute from members of the department each day. Today, we join the Charleston Fire Department in remembering Captain Mike Benke.
A tribute to Captain Theodore Michael (Mike) Benke
Submitted by Battalion Chief Michael Hanuscin
Theodore Michael “Mike” Benke entered the Charleston Fire Department on March 19, 1979. He rose through the ranks of the department and was promoted to Captain on July 11, 1995. During his career with the CFD he served at: Station 10 where he was assigned to Engine 10 and Ladder 14, Station 11, Station 3, Station 9, and finally at Station 16 assigned as Captain on Engine 16.
As an engineer Mike believed in keeping the apparatus and equipment clean at all times and ready for service. He was known to be diligent and keenly detailed about the apparatus in his charge. When Mike was promoted to Captain and assigned to Engine 9, I had the privilege of being his Engineer. As a Captain he would capitalize on each of his crew members’ strengths and help to improve their weaknesses. He was soft spoken at times but when he needed to get his point across, there was no mistaking the importance of his message.
Mike was an avid fan of NASCAR. Those who knew him sometimes said he resembled Dale Earnhardt. If Mike was ever working on a Saturday or Sunday during racing season, you could be reassured that once all of the station duties were taken care of (apparatus check, clean up and drill time) the race would be on TV. There would be no shortcuts taken, but the race would be on.
Mike valued his family. There was a special love for his wife Kim and his children, Holly, Taylor Michelle, and Hunter. That love expanded when he became a granddad for the first time. Grand parenting was one of his greatest joys. I am sure that Mike would be proud of the accomplishments of his children and he would have been infatuated with the rest of his grandchildren. In the same dedicated way he took care of his equipment and his men at work, he would have lavishly spoiled the rest of the grandchildren every chance he had.
As the 10th anniversary of the Sofa Super Store Fire approaches, it is important that we take time to reflect on the past and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It is important that we recognize and reflect on each individual singularly to remind us of the people they were and what they gave to the department and the fire service.
I believe Mike would be impressed with the advancements we have made since the fire. Rest easy my friend. We have not forgotten you or the others who made the sacrifice on June 18, 2007.
Charleston Fire Department