Remembering Joe Benes

Photo courtesy of The University of Akron

Photo courtesy of The University of Akron

By Michelle DeShon, Opinion Editor

On Monday evening, Oct. 24, Joe Benes of UA’s photography department passed away unexpectedly due to complications from surgery.

Benes was a well-known staff member of Photography Instructional & Technical Support in the Myers School of Art, whom most photography students went to for signing out photography equipment, setting up darkrooms, help on projects, and any other resources or advice they might have needed. Before coming to Myers School of Art, Joe worked in Audio Visual in the basement of Carroll Hall.

An email notifying art school students and faculty of Benes’ passing was sent out Tuesday morning.

“With a heavy heart, we wanted to tell you all the sad news…Joe Benes, our photo tech, died on Monday due to complications after a surgery earlier this week,” the email said.

Benes earned a degree in geography and anthropology from UA, where he worked for more than 25 years afterward.

Benes loved playing guitar and, along with organizing the Singers and Songwriters group in Cuyahoga Falls, helped to organize musicians at Taste of Hudson, a large festival in Hudson, OH. He also helped coach the North Akron Wrestling Club.

“It’s such a shocking thing that he’s not here, I miss him a lot,” said photography professor Dale Dong. “I found it so hard to believe, I thought I [could] wake up the next day and find out it never happened.”

Katie Timperio, manager of student affairs in the school of art, says that she remembers Benes as having a father-like role in her life.

“Many years ago, as a young art major without documentation skills, he graciously helped me photograph my small-scale works on paper, not because he had to, but because he cared about helping others, especially those without privilege. He called me ‘Kiddo’ up until his last days,” Timperio said. “Myers won’t be the same without him. We will keep a (darkroom) light on for him and will miss him immensely.”

Here’s what others had to say about Benes:

Photography student Alexis Beshara: Joe’s calmness and coolness will be missed greatly in the photo department and in the entirety of [the] Myers School of Art.”

Stan Kohn, senior lecturer of digital imaging: “What a great loss for Joe’s family as well as his ‘family’ in the school of art. A kind and caring man who I have known for over 15 years, I will miss him.”

Penny Rakoff, emeritus professor of photography: “[Benes] had to adapt to changing technology, not only mixing chemistry for the school’s color and black and white darkrooms and fixing equipment, but managing maintenance of computer labs, printers, and scanners…When I heard the news of his passing I was shocked. It was surreal…He will be missed.”

Carolyn Jentner, budget administrator for Myers School of Art, School of Music, and College of Education: “Joe was planning to retire in the next couple years…He was a fun loving guy, and from what I can tell, a great father and husband. He will be missed by many.”