There was a memorial service today for Bennie Welburn. For those of you who didn’t know Bennie, for about the past 20 years he was…
the head of security at the Republican National Committee headquarters on First Street in Washington DC. Attending the memorial service today was the current RNC Chair, Ken Mehlman, and 4 past Chairs: Ed Gillespie, Gov. Marc Racicot, Gov. Jim Gilmore and Rich Bond. Allison Fahrenkopf ably represented her dad, Frank, who was called out of town to Bennie’s beloved Las Vegas. Every one of them spoke, and spoke poignantly and eloquently about their personal memories of Bennie. Racicot told the packed room — moved from the RNC next door to the Capitol Hill Club because of the sheer size of the crowd — of his long daily walks around the block with Bennie as they shared their common habit — tobacco. Racicot would smoke his pipe, Bennie these long thin cigarillo things he used to smoke. In August, Racicot, a Montanan, would complain about the heat. “How do you deal with this heat?”, he asked Bennie. Bennie’s reply? “I just walk slow and tell myself it’s not hot.” It was classic Bennie, never lost for an answer, ever the optimist.
He had a colorful career, from the Army to his own professional dance troupe. Everyone who knew Bennie for more than a week or so was privy to his famous scrapbook of photos from his years as a bodyguard for Sammy Davis, Jr., The Temptations and Gladys Knight. (Bennie was an 8th degree black belt, a good guy to have around in a pinch.) One of the speakers remarked today that Bennie was probably the only guy to number Gladys Knight and Ronald Reagan as a friend. He was just that kind of guy.
There are just some people who evoke a smile from everyone they meet, and Bennie was one of them. And, despite the enormous wattage in that room today, all those former Chairs, the truth is that to so many, Bennie was the face of the RNC — always the loyal sentinel, always out front, always with a mischievous grin.
Most of us came today not to mourn Bennie but to celebrate a life, a great life that brought joy to so many. For those of us lucky enough to get to heaven, no doubt Bennie will be standing out in front with that grin and a funny comment, our sentinel and friend.
Here’s a copy of the program from today, with a few pictures of Bennie and a little bit about the remarkable life of an unforgettable guy.
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