High School Teacher Dies of Cancer at 51

Bob Benson, a well-known Esperanza High School chemistry teacher, died Tuesday of liver cancer. He was 51.

Benson taught science at the Anaheim school for 14 years. Before that he taught in the Buena Park School District for 10 years.

Benson, a Placentia resident, was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident 15 years ago and later lost an eye to cancer. Despite his disability, he was upbeat and always had encouraging words for students and friends, said Mary Cummings, an Esperanza English teacher.

“He was often in tremendous pain because of his spinal cord injury, but you never saw him without a smile on his face,” Cummings said. “When he found out about the cancer, his concern was more for the faculty and his family than for himself. He didn’t want us to worry.”


Esperanza’s flags flew at half staff Wednesday as tearful teachers and students shared stories about Benson.

The teacher often spoke of his joy when students grasped a new concept, and he kept in touch with many of his past students, said Christine Mize Heckethorn, Benson’s sister.

“He loved to challenge the kids and to give them the desire to learn,” she said. “He didn’t miss a game or any of the school activities of his students or his own kids. Education, his family and his church family were the most important things to him.”

Benson is survived by his wife of 30 years, Kendra; sons Robb, Joe and Kendall; daughter Courtenay Shaw; and two grandchildren.


The funeral will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda. Arrangements for a memorial service at Esperanza are pending.