Brother Robert Benish, Missionary

Associated Press, carried in Seattle Times
April 26, 1991

SPOKANE - Brother Robert Benish, a Roman Catholic missionary with more than two decades of service in Western Alaska, has died at age 70.

According to the Diocese of Fairbanks, Brother Benish died in his sleep here Tuesday (April 23). Born in Spokane, he took vows as a Jesuit brother in 1943 and arrived in Alaska in the summer of 1946.

Brother Benish served as prefect at the old St. Mary's Mission on the Yukon River until 1987, when he left for Fairbanks. He returned to Spokane two years ago.

His job as prefect included almost 24-hour-a-day contact with students, teaching, picking berries, gathering driftwood for fuel and many other duties.

Each summer, Brother Benish played a major role in summer fishing for the mission. He and the students used three fish wheels to gather more than 18,000 fish for use during the winter.

In August 1951, the mission operation was moved to new buildings on the right bank of the Andreafsky River. Brother Benish continued as prefect, with the added duties of ham-radio operator and gardener.

He also served as the St. Mary's postmaster from 1951 to 1970.


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