Charleston 9: Capt. Mike Benke
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Capt. Mike Benke was all about family, living by a calendar full of soccer games, and cheering on the Riverdogs.
Kim Benke describes her late husband as a hero, but more importantly as a man who was committed.
"Committed to his family, and his job," she says.
Job and family were connected.
"On our off days, we would go to the station and meet all those guys and play on the truck," his daughter, Taylor Michelle says. And she'd talk with her dad about becoming a paramedic. Now, she's a county paramedic, often running calls with her dad's fellow firefighters, men she calls his brothers
"The love and support has been great," she says. "I think he'd be very proud."
With public service in their blood, all his children are reaching their goals.
"Holly has a master's degree," Kim says.
And son Hunter is a city firefighter.
"Did I want him to be one? No, I sent him to college three times, and he said, 'Mom, I just want to be a firefighter,'" Kim says.
It's a different department now. But Kim knows all too well, first responders face inherent dangers.
"She comes in with a bullet proof vest on, and Hunter tells me stories about being in fires: 'This is so cool,' 'Part of the roof fell in,' or 'The floor fell in,' stuff like that, and I'm like, 'Don't tell me the details, just tell me you're safe," she says.
Kim recently took time to attend the National Fallen Firefighters Conference, sharing with families who had been through the same loss.
Not knowing what triggers a memory can be difficult. But she's been a rock for many, saying she won't let the past consume her.
"You don't ever forget," she says. "It's like you lived that day yesterday, but you see that other people will come into your life, whether it's for a reason or a season or a lifetime."
There are new grandchildren who will never meet Capt. Mike Benke. But they know his story.
"She loves putting flowers on his grave," Kim says of her granddaughter. "She does include him in her prayers. She'll say that's Cappy, that's my mamma's dad, he's an angel."
They hold close, the Benke commitment to family, as they move forward.
"You have to be in charge of your own happiness…because if you keep on and on, it will consume you," Kim says.
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