Fud Benson Obituary

Obituary: John Everett “Fud” Benson (1939-2024)

John Everett Benson, known far and wide as “Fud,” was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1939 and grew up in the Point section of town, not far from the Colonial-era stone carving shop which his father, John Howard, had run since the 1920s. As a teenager, Benson learned from his dad how to draw, and hand carve letters in stone.

The elder Benson died in 1956, and young Fud went to study sculpture at RISD. As a senior, he participated in the inaugural year of the school’s European Honors Program, where he was also exposed to the great inscriptional letter carving of Imperial Rome. Returning home with his wife, Ruth, and their infant son, Christopher, Benson went directly to work at the family business alongside his mother, Fisher, who had assumed its management after her husband’s death. In 1964, the shop was awarded the prestigious job of designing and hand-carving the inscriptions on President John F. Kennedy’s memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, a commission completely designed and executed by the still very young carver.

The Kennedy job launched Benson’s career and was followed by a long string of equally noteworthy civic and institutional commissions at colleges and universities throughout the US and especially in the Nation’s capital. The magnum opus of his civic work there was done for the California-based landscape architect Lawrence Halprin on the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial.

In addition to his civic inscriptions, Benson completed many private commissions in a decades-long repertoire of elegant, handmade headstones, tablets and plaques made for a who’s-who of noteworthy clients throughout the US. He retired from letter carving after completing the Roosevelt job, handing the running of the shop off to his younger son Nick who still runs it today. Fud married his second wife, Karen Augeri, in 1988 and has spent the past twenty-five years working at his first passion as a figurative sculptor, completing numerous portrait commissions and figures in clay, plaster and bronze.

The recipient of numerous honors and distinctions throughout his career, including an Honorary Doctorate from RISD, Fud was also a well-known local figure in Newport. Beginning in the 1960s, he played and sang in local taverns with a colorful cast of both well-known and locally beloved folk musicians. For the past thirty-five years he and Karen spent many happy days in their boat, The Point Hummer, which Benson built himself. They loved being out on Narragansett Bay, and especially visiting their beloved Rose Island.

Benson is preceded in death by his two brothers, Thomas and Richard Benson and is survived by his first wife, Ruth, his second wife Karen, his sons Christopher and Nicholas, their wives Cybele Leverett and Alexandra Flood Benson and their children William, Fisher and Henry and Hope.

A Memorial service will be held in the Fall. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Rose Island Lighthouse & Fort Hamilton Trust, or to the Redwood Library.




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