Last month Mark and Robin Benoy donated a cello to L.J. Hauser Junior High School. But it was not just any cello. It was the cello that their son, Beau, played.
Beau Benoy was just 12 years old and had just completed sixth grade when he was struck by a car on June 10, 2001.
It was the first Sunday after school had let out for the summer, and the Benoys were at a friend’s house with a few families celebrating the end of the school year and the start of summer.
Beau and some other children were having a water balloon fight when Beau darted out in the 300 block of Delaplaine Road and was hit by a car. He died 12 days later, on June 22, 2001, without recovering consciousness.
Hauser music teacher Patty Gill was Beau’s cello teacher in fifth and sixth grades. Gill says that Beau was a talented musician, superb student, good athlete and all around nice kid.
“He had all kinds of potential,” Gill said. “One of our Riverside tragedies.”
The Benoys had been renting the cello from a music store, but after Beau died they could not bring themselves to return it, so they bought it. They also bought another cello that they immediately gave to Hauser to honor Beau.
Now, 15 years later, the Benoys are putting their home on the market and preparing to move to Indiana, so they decided to also donate Beau’s cello to Hauser.
On May 31, Mark and Robin Benoy presented the cello to Gill and the Hauser sixth-grade orchestra class. A plaque on the back of the cello reads “Beau’s Cello, given by the Benoy family in honor of Mrs. Patricia Goyette-Gill 5/31/16.”
“It was just time for the cello to go to Mrs. Gill and Hauser,” Robin Benoy said. “We also wanted to honor her.”
Gill was moved by the gift.
“I am greatly honored and touched by the donation,” Gill said. “It will be put to good use. Many students will use it and Hauser is a good home for that cello.”
Gill and then-Central School Principal Dariel McGrath visited Beau at Loyola Medical Center and took steps to remember him.
For about six months or so in the 2001-02 school year, Robin Benoy would bring the cello to Hauser after school and Gill would teach her how to play the cello.
“It was a therapeutic thing that we were doing,” Robin said. “I never really did play the cello that well.”
After a while the Benoys gave the cello to Claire Schraidt, who was the best friend of Beau’s little sister, Natalie. Schraidt played the cello throughout her time at Hauser, but gradually stopped playing it as she moved on to high school, college and beyond. The cello has been at the Schraidts’ house, sitting in Claire’s now vacant bedroom, for more than 10 years.
The Schraidts are also in the process of selling their home, so Robin Benoy picked up the cello this spring.
“It is not hard for us to give it up now because we have been in kind of a downsizing mode for the last couple of years preparing to leave Riverside,” Benoy said. “As you get older you just don’t want to carry excess baggage with you, so to speak, emotional or otherwise. And also just time. Time lets you do things like this that you couldn’t do before.”
The Riverside community has done several things to honor Beau and make sure that he and his values are not forgotten.
The Central School PTA (now PTO) established a Beau Benoy character award which is given to one fifth-grader each year.
“It’s about being kind to people,” Robin Benoy said.
This year’s winner was Emily Androwich. Over the years, the Benoys have often been present when the award is given out and they speak about Beau at the ceremony.
“He was really a great kid,” Benoy said. “He was a normal human being, not a saint, but as a kid he was just always very funny and loving and kind and just great. Could have, would have done probably a lot of wonderful things with his life.”
Beau swam for the Champs Swim Club and the Riverside Swim Club and both those clubs have also created awards named for Beau, which go each year to a swimmer who is recognized as an excellent and supportive teammate.
The Hauser PTO raised money and commissioned a stained-glass window at the school that honors Beau. Robin, working with David Condon of Colorsmith Stained Glass Studio in Riverside, designed the window which depicts some of the things Beau loved.
It shows a boy in a blue Cubs baseball cap sitting under a tree reading a book with a sailboat in the distance under a rainbow sky.
The Benoys saw a rainbow on the way to what turned out to be Beau’s last orchestra concert.
“These awards and all the other things that people did in town to just honor Beau’s life just helped tremendously and continue to help tremendously,” Benoy said.
Mark and Robin Benoy have lived through every parent’s worst nightmare.
“You really are in a different state of mind for quite a while after something like this happens,” Benoy said. “I would say for at least a full year that your thought processes are not really quite the same, if they ever are.”
A couple of years after Beau died, the Benoys adopted two children from Russia. Their youngest just graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School.
Life goes on, but Beau is never forgotten.
“It’s never OK, because it’s not something you can ever say, ‘Oh, we’re fine,’ because that’s not how it happens,” Benoy said. “But you just go on, and this community has been behind us and kind of propped us up through all these years.”