Submitted by his Wife
Mike was just 19 years old when he started with the Charleston Fire Department in 1979. He was a third generation firefighter within the Fire Department. His cousin Andy Benke recalls that he always knew Mike was destined to be a firefighter from a very young age. He stated that after a campfire got out of control‚ Mike started the ‘plan’ for putting the fire out. That plan continued for almost 29 years‚ until‚ he tragically lost his life in a structure fire at the Sofa Super Store in Charleston‚ SC on June 18‚ 2007. Eight other men also lost their lives that day; they became known as ‘The Charleston 9.’ They all made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our community safe.
At the time of his death‚ Mike was married to Kim Cofield Benke. They had two children‚ a daughter Taylor‚ 13 years old‚ and a son‚ Hunter‚ 10 years old. He also had a 30 year old daughter‚ Holly Gildea‚ and 2 grandchildren‚ and 1on the way (Kayla‚ ‘CJ‚’ Julieanne.)
He was an extremely active parent and partner to all of his family. He was always driving kids to soccer and baseball practices/games‚ school‚ field trips‚ working in the yard‚ homework‚ housework‚ (especially laundry‚) cleaning the pool‚ or whatever needed to be done. He ALWAYS found time to have fun with his family. He especially loved racing and telling people how proud he was of his family.
Mike was such a gentle soul‚ soft spoken‚ easy going‚ disliked any type of confrontation‚ always willing to lend a helping hand‚ that he basically got along with every one. He had a tremendous impact on many people. He will be forever missed by all of us that had the privilege of being in his life. He has touched many of our hearts.
We all have wonderful memories of Mike. Holly will miss not being able to cheer for their favorite team‚ USC‚ and the smell of burned French toast will always bring a smile to her face. Taylor will miss her Dad waking her up with a kiss on the head and ‘good morning princess‚’ and taking her to get a Moolatte’ at the mall. Hunter will miss his Dad playing ball‚ fishing‚ and all the ‘guy’ things they used to do. Most of all he will miss sitting in the recliner with his Dad every morning. As his wife‚ there are many things I miss about him. Mostly‚ I miss him as my friend and our day to day lives we shared for so long that just don’t seem nearly long enough now that he is gone. We will ALWAYS remember the love‚ laughter‚ and memories that he gave to us.