This year, on the 28th of June, Santa Cruz Woodies lost one of its long-term members and beloved friend, George Benson.
George connected with Santa Cruz Woodies at the first “Woodies on the Wharf” event in 1995, and until this year, never missed one. For 20 years he made our coveted trophies and his wooden art has graced many of the walls of our homes.
On August 1, 2015, over 150 family, friends, and community members gathered on the beach in San Simeon to remember George and celebrate his life. A procession of over 20 woodies, lead by the local Fire Department, made their way from Cambria up Highway 1 to George’s favorite beach. The first Woodie was George’s, which he had worked so hard to have restored and present at this year’s Woodies on the Wharf. Over 20 friends and community members came to his garage in the days preceding the event to make sure the car was put back together and running for George and his family. On the beach, family and friends spoke of the many great times they have had with George, and how much he added to their lives, while in the background, a pod of Humpback whales breeched and fed in the bay.
After a short beach ceremony, people made their way on surfboards and kayaks to a location out into the bay as long time friend, Jim Ferdinand, led us in a traditional “Paddle Out”. Holding hands to form a large circle in the ocean, words and prayers were spoken by many. Hawaiian sand and flowers were then spread out on the water in the bay, symbolizing George’s love for both locations. A farewell aloha commenced in a throwing of water towards the heavens and then a long and thoughtful paddle back to shore. It was an unforgettable experience for all.
A reception followed at the Benson’s House, and more stories were shared, as well as pictures and videos. Bob Lopez sang a very special song that he had written for George that left us all feeling the loss of a great friend.
Few of us have the chance to make such an impact on so many people. George was truly blessed with such a gift. He will be missed.