Noted Harlem funeral director, George Benta, succumbs
Supervised services of many Black elite
George Bernard Benta, who as executive director of Benta’s Funeral Home in Harlem personally supervised the funerals of such notables as Langston Hughes, Hall Johnson, James Baldwin, Sandy Sadler, Etta Jones, Coleman Hawkins, Paul Roberson, Alvin Ailey, Pearl Primus, John Henrik Clarke, Matthew Henson, among others, has died. He was 91.
Funeral services were being held today, Jan. 10, at 11 a.m. at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 204 W. 134th St., New York.
Benta was born on Sept. 3, 1921, in New York City, the second child of George Alexander and Margaret Sharry Jane Benta. His mother passed away when Bernard was 3, but his stepmother, Helena Frye Benta, helped raise him and his siblings.
Benta attended Frederick Douglass Junior High School, PS 139, where he had famed writer Countee Cullen as his teacher. He graduated from Textiles High School.
At 17, Benta entered the military. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Army, he returned to New York and worked in the U.S. Post Office with his father. Shortly afterward, his father left the postal service to start a mortuary business—Reed and Benta Funeral Home—with a partner in 1928. Benta followed his father into the business.
The business later became Benta’s Funeral Inc. and operated from a brownstone on 132nd Street, before moving to a larger facility. Benta was very proud that each of his children, like himself, became funeral operators. He later founded Alegacy Coaches, a luxury car and limousine service.
Benta married Pearl Marjorie McLeod, whom he had met as adolescent attending St. Philip’s in 1946.
She died in 1989.
He is survived by his second wife, Marilyn Benta; his children, Karen Patricia Diane, George Bernard Kevin and Kyle Phillip Michael; his daughters-in-law, Carol Benta, Robin Benta, Dorrence Benta, and his grandchildren, Elsa Rodriguez Williams, George Jason Alexander Benta, Whitney Gayle Benta and Olivia Eduvigis Pearl Benta.
Bobbie Smith, who as a member of the Spinners sang lead on such hits as “I’ll Be Around” and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” has died. He was 76.
Smith died Saturday of complications of pneumonia and the H1N1 flu virus, according to a statement from Nat Burgess, the Spinners’ manager.
Cardiss Collins, the first African American woman to represent the state of Illinois in Congress, died Feb. 3 at a Virginia hospital from complications of pneumonia following a stroke, a family friend said.
She was 81.
Collins originally was elected to fill the seat left vacant when her husband, Congressman George W. Collins, who represented what was then the 7th District, was killed in a 1972 airplane crash. For much of the 1980s, she was the only Black woman in Congress.
A memorial service for Keith Marvin Charles Conception was held Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Center for Spiritual Living in Inglewood. Conception, 25, was born on Nov. 21, 1987, in Los Angeles and presented to the Lewis and Kimble families shortly after his birth.
Services were held recently for Lillian Miles Lewis, wife of Rep. John Lewis, who died on New Years Eve. She was 73.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was after taking a job as a librarian at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) that she met her husband at a 1967 New Year’s Eve party at the home of television personality and civil rights activist Xernona Clayton.
The two were married less than a year later and had a partnership that spanned 44 years.
Terry Glover, managing editor of Ebony magazine and veteran publishing executive, died in her Chicago home on Dec. 24. Glover, 57, had been battling colon cancer for the past two years.