When Kevin Fullerton first looked at renting space at the corner of Maple Street and Johnson Drive in downtown Mission, he was told the landlord, Betty Benson, would be like a new grandmother.
From the moment he met Benson nine years ago, Fullerton — who rents 5600 Johnson Drive for his company Springboard Creative — said there was an instant connection. Fullerton said Benson looks out for all of her tenants so much that they’ve become a family by choice, and call themselves “Betty’s people.”
Her legacy of kindness doesn’t go unnoticed, Fullerton said. There’s rarely any vacancies in Benson’s buildings because “she’s made [them] all want to stay here.”
“I call her landlord, but that’s not the right word because that sounds so cold,” Fullerton said. “That’s not it at all — we get to work in one of her buildings, you know.”
That’s why Fullerton and the rest of “Betty’s people” are glad to continue the tradition of celebrating Benson on her 100th birthday on July 24. Benson said the more she hears about the birthday party, the more she thinks it’s going to be “wild.” She said she’s excited because she’s only going to turn 100 once.
Long history in Mission
Benson has lived in Mission since 1952 and owns half a block of real estate on Johnson Drive between Reeds Road and Maple Street, including Sandhills Brewing and Urban Prairie Coffee. She said she got interested in owning real estate because the idea of buying a space for “a little bit of money” and being able to get a high return on investment was alluring to someone who grew up impoverished.
Until last year, Benson was teaching art classes in her studio on Johnson Drive, Artist Workshoppe. Benson said she closed the studio after COVID-19 hit, and is now preparing to start painting again with a group of friends in her Milhaven home — but she won’t be teaching classes.
As she approaches 100, Benson said her secrets include having lots of doctors and taking vitamins. She tests her brain nightly by remembering and reciting the names of everyone in her graduating class of 1939 — and said she’s grateful she’s still able to use her mind, which in turn allows her to appreciate life.
“I’m very fortunate, I’m very fortunate because I am still enjoying life,” Benson said.
Benson’s party will be on July 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in her backyard. While 100 is a milestone, Fullerton said he’s already thinking about Benson’s 105th birthday.