A memorial service is scheduled Friday for Jean Benson, the first female mayor of Palm Desert, who died last month at the age of 95.
Benson, who died on Nov. 26, moved to the Coachella Valley in 1969. She settled in Palm Desert and was among the first City Council members elected after the city incorporated in 1973.
She would go on to serve 32 years in city government, during which she was mayor six times. She retired from the City Council in 2014 at the age of 90.
Benson received numerous community service awards while serving on the council, including being named 2007 Rotary Citizen of the Year.
“Palm Desert has lost a pioneering leader and passionate community advocate. We are deeply gratefully for Jean’s many years of service to our community,” said City Manager Lauri Aylaian. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Jean’s family as all of us who knew and admired her mourn her passing and celebrate the remarkable life of this strong and dedicated public servant.”
Following the outbreak of World War II, Benson left her first job at Western Union to enlist in the women’s branch of the United States Naval Reserve, which was established in 1942 by the U.S. Congress. The volunteer unit was known as the WAVES, which stood for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
After training, she was assigned to a post in San Francisco, where she worked as a teletype operator sending encoded messages to the U.S. Navy’s South Pacific fleet.
Benson’s memorial service will begin at 3 p.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 43775 Deep Canyon Road in Palm Desert.