Obituary: Helen Marie Lueth Benson Aug. 16, 1920 – Nov. 26, 2022

Helen Marie Lueth Benson was grateful for her life and generous with her talents, quick to see the good in everybody, slow to criticize, and one who always saw beauty everywhere. 

All that women are—all their talents, expertise, skills, time—Helen contributed to others, and what she didn’t give away, she kept as adventures in her inner world. She brought much of that feminine creativity and talent to those she met.

Helen grew up in a large, extended family in Champaign, Illinois, daughter of Waldemar Lueth, a German immigrant father, and Eleanor, Philbrook, a super-organized, hard-working mother. As the smartest kid in the family (older siblings Francis and Betty, younger ones Barbara—Helen’s best buddy—and Wally born a blue baby that Eleanor kept alive through a mother’s instincts, dedication, and determination), Helen was athletic, artistic, talented, in drama club, excelled in math, and an avid reader smart enough to never get caught reading books under the covers with a flashlight all night.  She graduated with honors and was accepted in 1938 (as a women) to the new science program of Nutrition at University of Illinois.  

At Illini, Helen met John Stephen Benson on a blind date.  They married March 3, 1943, a year and three months after the start of WWII.  John joined the army where he volunteered as a medic because ever since he was a little boy and his father died of strep throat, John wanted to be a doctor and save people so they wouldn’t die to leave a little boy bereft.  He was pulled out of basic training and sent to medical school.  He got his MD just days before daughter Barbara was born. Later came daughter Jody and son Chris.

After serving in the Public Health Service, John was recruited by AEC to come to Los Alamos where Dr. Bradbury and Lois wanted to continue the LANL practice of hiring the best of the best: scientists, custodians, teachers, trades and crafts, businesses, doctors…  The families who came with the recruits were expected to raise smart, patriotic children.  

The nation, city, and Helen had a mission: Helen put herself behind supporting her husband in his 24-hour/day practice, deliciously feeding her kids and their friends, and being the classiest, most beautiful woman in town while waiting for John to get home from his twice-a-day rounds back in the day when doctors made house calls and cared for their own patients in the hospital.  

Helen and John were among the transplanted Anglos who loved New Mexico culture and landscape. John’s patients invited them to feast days at Pueblos; some paid medical bills with a silver button or bushel of apples.  Helen and John filled the home with carvings, pots, blankets, Kachinas, paintings, retablos, and antiques.  They took the kids fossil hunting on BLM and Pueblo land when the area was open for exploration.  She and John took the kids to travel by car throughout the US and Canada, stopping at every historic marker and museum, and for ice cream at the A&W Root Beer drive-ins for a hot-afternoon root beer float.  

They put their kids through college and grew older in Los Alamos, in which Helen sometimes felt isolated with John working all the time until finally John went from private practice to the Lab. Now they had time together, no ER work or midnight calls to the hospital.  Now into their third generation together they passed on their interests and adventures on to grandkids Brian, Brienna, Bethany, and Joseph, and later great grand kids, Christian, Brennan, Cara, Bryce, Jaden, Jera, and Jaebri. They have a great-great granddaughter, Luna Mia.

They moved into Aspen Ridge Assisted Living in December 2002. After John died July 13, 2005, Helen stayed on to create a new family of peers and staff while relieved of the unrelenting women’s work of keeping a house together. She remained the classy lady, welcoming newcomers until she turned 96, never missing a members’ meeting or event, continuing to eat a well-balanced diet, and being always grateful for her friends and the staff who so lovingly cared for her.  

And please, let us not forget COVID and the isolation of the so-called fragile people being locked in their rooms from March 13, 2020 until February 1, 2021 when they got the vaccines. Every resident, including Helen, was strong, hopeful, and resilient enough to survive the isolation—there’s a reason they’re called the Greatest Generation. Staff was their face-to-face family.  Every resident was protected from the disease.  

Helen died in Los Alamos Medical Center where she’d been admitted for pneumonia.  The medical team—every one of whom Helen recognized and remembered by name—cured her pneumonia, but when Helen realized how long it would take to recover at home from the nine-day hospital stay, she, age 102, decided to depart.  

When asked about heaven she said, “You know, my family will be there: Mother and Daddy, Aunt Marie, Aunt Alma, Frances, Betty, Wally—you know, everybody.” And she nodded and smiled.

Please feel encouraged to leave any pictures, stories, or condolences at for the family to cherish.