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Irene “Renee” Helterbran Benton, 82, of Bena, passed away at 3:03 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, 2024, after a long battle with Congestive Heart Failure.
She was born October 6, 1941 in Newport News and was a resident of Bena for the last 51 years.

She was a 1959 graduate of Newport News High School, where she played the clarinet in the band. It was there she met the love of her life, Julius Daniel Benton Jr. She also attended The University of Virginia. She was a member of Union Baptist Church in Achilles and later a member of Poquoson Baptist Church.

Renee started work at Langley Air Force Base as the secretary to the doctor for the Mercury 7 Astronauts. Later she worked in External Affairs at NASA Langley, where her support was instrumental to the success of the Viking Mission to Mars. After leaving NASA, she spent several years working in Washington, D.C., first, as the Chief of Operations at Color 1 Associates and then as a manager at Parsons Transportation Group, where she retired.

Renee had a passion for genealogy and traced her family tree to the 13th century. Much of her ancestry was discovered prior to the internet by visiting and studying the gravesites of relatives. She spent many weekends in research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

She loved to travel with her husband, Julius, in their motorhome; and they were active in the Bounders of America camping club.

She enjoyed cooking, crafting, cake decorating, knitting and crochet, and handmade four generations of Christmas stockings for her family.

Renee was preceded in death by her loving husband of 47 years, Julius Daniel Benton Jr., and her mother, Bernice Norris Helterbran. She is survived by her daughters, Sherri Benton of Bena, Kristi Newman of Hayes, and Julie Olson (Paul) of Chesapeake; granddaughters, Kendall Appich (Chase), Cadyn Olson and Mikaela Olson; grandson, Zachary Olson; great-grandson, Cash Appich; brother, Robert Helterbran, and cousin, John Robinson; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Visitation was Tuesday, May 14 at W.J. Smith & Son Funeral Home, followed by a graveside service at Parklawn Memorial Park in Hampton. Pastor Jared Berry of Union Baptist Church officiated. Special music was provided by Kristi Newman.

The family would like to extend deep gratitude to the staff at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital and Riverside Hospice Care Middle Peninsula for their kindness and loving care.

Arrangements by W.J. Smith & Son Funeral Home, Newport News.