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Shirley June Benson Rice

Shirley June Benson Rice, 94 of Farmville, passed away peacefully in her home at The Woodland on Friday, Oct. 22, where she lived independently for many years. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 29, 1927, she was the daughter of Charles M. and Oda Davis Benson, and sister of predeceased Edward H. Benson.

After graduating from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland in 1948, where she made lifelong friendships, Shirley taught elementary school in Baltimore and at Short Pump Elementary in Richmond, where her late husband of 62 years, John Brooks Rice, was a student at Union Theological Seminary.

After his graduation and ordination in 1952, they served Presbyterian churches in the Fayetteville, North Carolina area, South Norfolk, now Chesapeake, Norfolk, Williamsburg, College Presbyterian Church at Hampden-Sydney College and in Miami, Florida. Upon retirement in 1991, John and Shirley returned to Farmville. Through the years, Shirley served as a Sunday school teacher, a Vacation Bible School teacher and Director, church secretary, choir member, Assistant Postmistress at Hampden-Sydney College, long-time member of The Commonwealth Chorale, the Farmville Women’s Club and the local Bird Club. She loved music, reading, swimming, movies, Maryland crab cakes, coffee, chocolate, X-word puzzles and walking. Her neighbors at The Woodland would see her walking through the neighborhood daily.

Shirley’s greatest joy came from being John’s wife, a pastor’s wife, a mother and a grandmother. She is survived by her 3 children, Joanne Rice Coltrain of Farmville, Thomas E. Rice (Barbara) of Farmville and John B. Rice, Jr. (Babette) of Luray and 3 grandchildren, Brooks Robert Rice of Harrisonburg, Travis John Coltrain of Iowa City, Iowa and Caroline Benson Rice of Charlottesville. Shirley will be remembered by family and friends for her extraordinary kindness and love, her caring, unselfish, cheerful demeanor, her gentleness and grace, her compassion for others, her optimism and her open-mindedness. She was never an “old” lady.

Due to COVID, a memorial service at College Presbyterian Church will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to FACES Food Pantry, Farmville, which was started by her husband, or to College Presbyterian Church at Hampden-Sydney.