On March 23, 2021, Florestela Lerma Benavides passed peacefully into Eternal Rest at her home in Brownsville, Texas surrounded by her children and caregivers. She ended her long and beautiful journey through this life at the age of 95. She was born in Brownsville on March 16, 1926 to Cecilio Lerma and Dolores Garcia Lerma as a member of a pioneer family and part of the original settlers of South Texas. “Flo” or “Aunt Flo” as she was known to all her friends and family, was a lifetime resident of Brownsville leaving only to attend the University of Texas at Austin from 1946 to 1949 where she graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration. While at UT Austin, she met a young man who was attending UT on the G.I. Bill after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. His name was Arturo (A. X.) Benavides and he became her husband, love of her life, and best friend forever until his passing in 2016 after 67 years of marriage. Flo and A.X. were career educators with the Brownsville Independent School District, together providing over 75 years of dedicated service to the District and the children and teenagers of Brownsville. Flo taught at Canales and Resaca Elementary schools for over 20 years until she became part of the original faculty which opened Porter High school in 1974. She served her remaining professional years as a teacher at Porter until her retirement in 1988. Throughout her career at BISD, she positively impacted the lives of hundreds of students and fellow faculty and administrators. She inspired generations of Brownsville’s youth – many of which would often return to visit her as adults and express their gratitude for the life lessons and education she provided them. Flo was also very active in her community, contributing to the Brownsville Historical Association, Delta Kappa Gamma, the Brownsville Teachers Credit Union, and various other boards, committees, and organizations. She was a devoted parishioner of St. Mary’s Catholic Church from the 1970s to the present, and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral prior to the construction of St. Mary’s.
Flo’s main priority was her family and friends to whom she offered her unqualified love, affection, guidance, and comfort. She served as a matriarch to over four generations of family across more than a dozen family names. People realized that whether or not they were blood related, they could count on her to act as a surrogate mother, aunt, grandmother, friend, and shoulder to lean on. Her ability to lend a helping hand and to listen to others was boundless and stemmed from her deep faith in God and love of her community. Her daughter Brenda and son Jude were the focus of her care and nurturing which soon expanded to her grandchildren, Danielle, Christy, Sebastian and Alessandra. Five great-grandchildren blessed and brightened her life in her later years as well: Selena, Antonio, Noelia, and Elizabeth Martinez and Noa Courtney. Aunt Flo’s home was always a warm sanctuary for family and friends and was a location for countless Holiday dinners, family reunions, celebrations and parties where all were welcomed and no one was a stranger.
Florestela is preceded in death by her parents, Cecilio Lerma and Dolores G. Lerma, husband Arturo (A.X.) Benavides and her sibilings Gloria L. Saldana and Aroldo O. Lerma. She is survived by her daughter Brenda Benavides and son Jude A. Benavides (Annemarie), Grandchildren Danielle (J.R.) Martinez, Christina Mitchell, Sebastian Benavides, and Alessandra Benavides, as well as numerous great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
Out of respect for the health of those she loved as well as her surviving family, a private recitation of the Holy Rosary will be held for family and close friends at Trevino’s Funeral Home, 1355 Old Port Isabel Rd., on Sunday, March 28th at 6 pm. A private viewing will also be held from 4-6 pm on that same day. Those travelling from out-of-town or who wish to pay their respects that evening owing to an inability to attend the Monday Mass and Burial Service are welcome to attend.
The Funeral Mass, open to all, will be celebrated on Monday, March 29th at St. Mary Mother of the Church, 1914 Barnard Rd. at 11:00 A.M. with interment immediately following at Buena Vista Burial Park, 5 McDavitt Blvd.
Honored to serve as pallbearers are: Christopher J. Garcia, Nem J. Bryan, and Enrique A. Saldana (nephews); J.R. Martinez (husband to grandchild); Victor Avila (Godson and lifelong friend to family); and Eddie Sikes (life long friend to family).
Honorary pallbearers include her deeply loved nieces and nephews: Gloria Saldana Graham, Enrique J. Saldana, Yolanda Saldana Garcia, and Miguel A. (Mike) Saldana. The special and loving connection between these four siblings and Aunt Flo deserves particular mention and cannot be overstated. Additional honorary pallbearers include: Robert Garcia, Henry G. Kenneson, Jr., Jesse Trevino, and Oscar D. Garcia.
For those not able to attend in person, the Trevino Funeral Home will be providing on-line viewing options via their Facebook page. Please contact the funeral home for specific information.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests memorial contributions be made to the Arturo X. and Florestela L. Benavides Scholarship Endowment, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Office of Institutional Advancement, 701 E. Expressway 83, Box #13, McAllen, TX 78501. Gifts can also be made online at https://give.utrgv.edu/greatest-need. Select “Search for Gifts” and find the Arturo X. and Florestela L. Benavides Scholarship Endowment.
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