Walking trail a tribute to late Washington Township leader

June 29, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Jane Glenn, daughter of the late Paul Benchoff, leads family members in unveiling a sign for Benchoffs trail Wednesday at Pine Hill Regional Recreation Area east of Rouzerville, Pa.
Photo by Jennifer Fitch

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — A trail at Pine Hill Regional Recreation Area now bears the name of a Washington Township, Pa., leader who helped to acquire the land and walked through the woods to find peace after the death of his wife.

Paul Benchoff served 20 years as a member of the Washington Township Board of Supervisors, 10 years on the township zoning hearing board, and 12 years on the Washington Township Municipal Authority. The former teacher died in 2008 at age 82.

Benchoff’s family, friends and colleagues gathered Wednesday to dedicate a trail in his memory. His daughter, Jane Glenn, said the park was important to Benchoff after his wife, Ellie, died in 2004.

“He’d come up here and walk and walk and talk to Ellie,” Glenn said.

Washington Township officials said Benchoff had an incomparable knowledge of the community. Fellow board members said he was a person with answers and a calming presence at all times.

“I consider it a tremendous honor having worked with him,” Township Manager Mike Christopher said.

“Paul was easy to get along with. ... He was always a gentleman,” said Stephen Kulla, chairman of the township supervisors.

“I really learned more about how to conduct myself in public from Paul than anybody. ... I really wish I knew him longer,” Supervisor John Gorman said.

Former planning commission member Gary Bercaw said every student at what is now Waynesboro Area Senior High School respected Benchoff and called him “sir.” Benchoff started teaching after serving overseas in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He was missing in action for 80 days in World War II, according to Alma Howe.

“I’m just proud to be his sister,” Howe said.

“I had the utmost respect for him,” said C. Stewart McCleaf, a Washington Township Municipal Authority member and a former supervisor.

Glenn said her father especially enjoyed Pine Hill in the autumn when he could see between the trees.

“I really appreciate this, and I know he would, too,” she said.

The Paul Benchoff Memorial Overlook Trail rating is “easy” for hikers and takes users on a loop along a ridge in the park, which is off Mentzer Gap Road east of Rouzerville, Pa.

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