David Benda of Atlanta passed away Monday, May 21, 2018, at the age of 94 after a long illness.
Best described as loving and dedicated to his family, David was intelligent, independent, a true leader professionally and in the community, logical, organized, generous, and righteous. Throughout his entire life, he beat the odds, fighting to survive and to thrive, yet always playing by the rules.
David was born in Breslau, Germany, living through and witnessing firsthand the horrors the Nazis inflicted upon the Jewish population, including Kristallnacht. He was able to escape the Nazi regime during deportation to a work camp and soon managed to find his way to Baltimore, thanks to a Jewish relief agency that sponsored displaced children. While a student at Johns Hopkins University, he became an American citizen and enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving during World War II in the Pacific theater, where he worked as an official photographer for Gen. Douglas MacArthur and as a combat soldier.
After the war, David went to Chicago to study electrical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology. It was there that he met the love of his life, Zena Zeman, whom he soon married and with whom he started and raised his family. After completing college, David and Zena moved to Geneva, N.Y., where he became one of the true pioneers of the then-infant-stage color television industry, working for Sylvania (now Philips/Magnavox), heading up its research and design team for color television. His inventions led to 24 patents, including the first color television picture tube and the “instant on” feature. In addition to television innovation, his research team led to the growth of commercial air travel by converting radar signals from planes to video screens for tracking by controllers and developed a lightweight rocket fuel that enabled space travel to achieve faraway distances never reached before.
In addition to professional acclaim, he became extremely active in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region. He would not join an organization, club or other group without becoming its leader, as his organizational and leadership skills were recognized and desired by many. He served as the president of Temple Beth-El in Geneva, served five terms as the president of the Seneca Falls Country Club, served as the board chair of the Finger Lakes Regional Hospital Authority, was a 33rd degree Mason and Shrine Club leader, served as the president of the Finger Lakes Investment Club, was the chair of the United Jewish Appeal campaign and ran adult athletic leagues.
Upon retirement, David and Zena moved to Atlanta to be near family, most notably his two grandsons. But not being content with retirement, David soon became extremely involved as a leader in numerous organizations, serving as a vice president and board member at Ahavath Achim Synagogue for nearly two decades and as a trustee for life of the Epstein School, where he was instrumental in the expansion and construction of its middle school. He was active in the Atlanta-Israel Chamber of Commerce, served as founding co-president, along with Zena, of the Soleil Chapter of B’nai B’rith, and served as an official mentor and adviser to technology companies in the Atlanta area.
Without any doubt, however, his crowning achievements were his success at serving as a role model for the love and guidance he shared with family, his hard work and study, his living a devout Jewish life full of spirit and observance of the Sabbath and holidays, his sense of humor, and his dedication to education and charitable causes.
David and Zena (Zee) Benda were married for 56 years and were an example of true love and partnership until she predeceased him in 2004.
David is survived by daughter Gail Benda of Dana Point, Calif.; son Gerald (Jerry) Benda of Atlanta; grandsons Eric Benda and Darren Benda, both of Atlanta; daughter-in-law Faith L. Benda of Atlanta; and by niece Mara Zeman and several cousins. David’s family wishes to extend heartfelt thanks, appreciation and love to his caregivers, who labored tirelessly the past five years: Mary Hines, Sandra McWillis, Patricia Williams and Pauline Thom.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in David Benda’s memory be made to the David and Zena Benda Building Improvement Fund at Ahavath Achim Synagogue or to the Epstein School. Arrangements by Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, 770-451-4999.