BISHOPVILLE — Carlton Reese Benston, who worked for almost 40 years installing phone systems for businesses from Ocean City to Salisbury, died on Thursday, Sept. 15 at his home in Bishopville after a brief struggle with lung cancer. He was 84.
Born in the home of his parents, Reese and Viola Benston, on 1st Street in Ocean City on Sept. 17, 1926, Benston grew up in an era of Ocean City that is long gone.
Known as Ben to both friends and family, he was the second of four children. His youngest sister, Shirley Clark, remembers his youthful prowess as an ocean swimmer. He would take her to the beach, plant her on a blanket and then head out for a long swim.
“He told me to stay right on the blanket and not move. I watched him swim out past the pier, over into the bay and then back,” she said.
Like all kids growing up in Ocean City, Ben held down a number of jobs through the Great Depression and into World War II years. He went to Ocean City High School, graduating with the rest of his class after attending the 11th grade.
Benston enlisted in the Navy the day before his 18th birthday in 1944. He served in the South Pacific, working in a unit that showed movies and provided other entertainment for sailors and Marines. He was honorably discharged in 1946 in Portland, Oregon.
Returning to Ocean City after the war, Benston worked a number of jobs. He was a movie projectionist at both The Capital and the Showell’s theaters.
In the late 1940s, Ben went to work for The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. For many years, he was the only phone technician installing phones for businesses in much of Worcester and Wicomico counties. After the break up of the Bell System in 1984, Benston transferred to AT&T and then Lucent Technologies. He retired in 1985.
Over the years, Benston enjoyed many hobbies and activities. He was an avid boater and fisherman, a golfer and a bowler. His family recalls that he bowled a perfect game at one point.
He was a member of American Legion Post 166 in Ocean City, the Communication Workers of America and the Pioneers, a community service organization for telephone company employees.
Benston is survived by his wife of 26 years, Betty A. Benston; his sisters Dorothy Shockley of Berlin, and Shirley Clark of Dover, Del. His older brother, Rulith Benston, died in 1982.
He also is survived by four children from his first marriage, Teresa Charrier of Salisbury, Kathy Williams of Salisbury, Michael Benston of Bishopville and Karen Miller of Chambersburg, Pa.; five step-children, Evie Brittingham of Pasadena, Rick Hutzell of Annapolis, Donna Allenbaugh of Berlin, Bill Hutzell of Durham, N.C., Amy McCready of Bishopville; 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He also is survived by his first wife, Betty J. Benston of Ocean City.