‘Seeing the Star Brings Me Joy’: Steve Benko’s Legacy Also Touches God’s Acre at Christmas

Many years ago, Sue Benko fondly dubbed her husband, the late Steve Benko, as “New Canaan’s Christmas Elf.”

A 1968 New Canaan High School graduate and standout Irish soda bread baker who would work as the town’s recreation director for four-plus decades—while also volunteering with New Canaan Fire Co. 1, serving as chief for all but one year from 1980 to 1995—Steve Benko “cherished” the Christmas tree at God’s Acre and the local tradition of caroling each Christmas Eve, Sue Benko recalled. “Each year, his enthusiasm would peak as it came time to light the tree,” she said. “Wrapping up all the kids warmly, we would take a drive-by to ensure the tree was just perfect.”

In 2014, God’s Acre got a new fir tree to serve as the centerpiece for the holidays, and Steve Benko decided to craft a new star for it. “In the inaugural year of its decoration, he sensed something was amiss,” Sue Benko recalled.

Did You Hear … ?

The alpacas of Crajah House on Oenoke Ridge Road on Tuesday were shorn of their thick winter coats—see photos above. Their owner, New Canaan’s Debbie McQuilkin, tells us the process for each “blanket” includes picking out sticks, hay and straw, then going for the secondary areas of the neck, backside and legs. The material is sent to a fiber mill where it’s washed, cleaned again and dyed or made into a yarn that McQuilkin herself chooses—fine knitting or heavy weaving for rugs. It also can be sent back for hand spinning or felting, McQuilkin said. The alpaca fleece is hypoallergenic and contains no lanolin, and it’s naturally fire-resistant.

‘An Extremely Committed Volunteer’: High Praise for Tracey Karl as She Steps Down from NCHS All Sports Booster Club

Tom Stadler recalls vividly the first time he met Tracey Karl. It was more than a decade ago, and the pair stood atop the hill at Conner Field, watching 9-year-olds play in a baseball game that had dragged on for nearly three hours. Stadler, then president of New Canaan Baseball, recalled saying out loud that the game had been going on too long. “And she says, ‘Yes, it’s too long,’ and so we started this conversation and she says what about this and that, and I said, ‘Tracey, would you like to be on the baseball board?’ It was the first time we’d met and I didn’t know her from Adam.”

In characteristic fashion, Karl said ‘Yes’ to the demanding volunteer position and went on to make lasting changes to the organization that have streamlined and otherwise operations, all with a goal of improving the youth sports experience for New Canaan kids. “I think the world of Tracey,” Stadler said.