Gertrude Benda

Obituary of Gertrude Benda

Gertrude Benda died at home in the loving presence of her family at the age of 98 on May 31, 2024, from a stroke and related complications. The arc of her life spanned an astounding range of experiences, cultures, and eras of social change. She was born into a German family in 1925 in Czechoslovakia, in the region formally known as Moravia. In 1937, after Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, her region became part of the German Nazi state. During, as well as after the war, her family experienced some of the worst of what war brings, first due to Nazi occupation, then under Soviet occupation, and finally after the war, as victims of ethnic cleansing at the hands of Czech nationalists. After the war ended, with no possessions other than the clothes on their backs, she, along with other members of her family, were able to flee to West Germany as refugees to start new lives. Her husband, Rudolf Benda, M.D., was a physician in Wythe County and pre-deceased her in 2004. He was born in the same region of Czechoslovakia, and they knew each other before World War II started. He and his mother also had fled Czechoslovakia as refugees after the war ended, and settled in Munich, where he completed his medical degree studies. The young couple married, and with the sponsorship and support of the International Rescue Committee, immigrated to the U.S. in 1954, due to a lack of opportunities in the post-war German economy. They eventually settled in Austinville in 1957, where Dr. Benda was a physician for the local mine and established a medical practice. Mrs. Benda always made family her priority. First, she supported her husband to establish his career in a new country under difficult circumstances. Then she committed her life to raising her sons, Walter and Peter, and providing a happy, stable home for her family. Mrs. Benda was an environmentalist, loved nature and animals, and had many dachshunds and other dogs as pets, including many rescue dogs and stray dogs. She and her husband were avid fans of classical music and enjoyed traveling together within the U.S. and overseas. She loved baking and cooking and was an expert in preparing delicious European desserts and pastries, many from recipes handed down through her family. She grew up when indoor plumbing and having an automobile was a novelty. She was at one time a citizen of Czechoslovakia, Nazi Germany, West Germany, and finally the United States. She loved the United States, especially southwest Virginia, which had mountains and forests that reminded her of the region she grew up in her childhood. She is survived by her older son, Walter, his wife, Tara, and their son, Chris, and by Walter’s daughters from his first marriage, Mari and Ema, and their families. She also is survived by her younger son Peter, and his wife, Robin, and their daughters, Katherine and Madeline, as well as her chiweenie dachshund, Lily, and her golden retriever mix, Brian, both rescue dogs. She will be missed dearly. The family is planning a private memorial service for family and close friends to honor her memory. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donating to the International Rescue Committee ( Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family at Grubb Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.