Brian Benton was known throughout the community for his soccer skills, but his parents remember a well-rounded young man distinguished by his passion, dedication and work ethic.
“Brian would do anything to make himself better, to be the best he could be,” said Stan Benton, Brian’s father.
Brian David Benton of Columbia, a graduate of Hickman High School, died Saturday, May 15, 2004. He was 26.
The cause of death has not been determined. Columbia Police Department Sgt. Stephen Monticelli said foul play has been ruled out. The medical examiner conducted an autopsy and is awaiting the results of toxicology tests, Monticelli said. The results could be available this week.
Mr. Benton was born July 27, 1977, in Columbia, to Stan and Mary Beth Benton. He graduated in 1995 from Hickman High School, where he was a two-time first-team all-state soccer player. Mr. Benton set a single-season assist record and finished tied for the career lead in goals.
“Brian was never interested in individual things,” Stan Benton said. “He would ask himself, ‘What can I do for the team?’ He was dedicated to the game of soccer.”
Mr. Benton was a member of two national champion junior soccer teams at the U-19 and U-20 level. He attended Drury University before transferring in 1997to Saint Louis University, where he was a starter on a Division I national semifinalist soccer team.
“The biggest thrill for him, and for me as a parent, was to watch him in the Final Four in Richmond, Va.,” Stan Benton said.
Mr. Benton earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Saint Louis University in 2000. After graduation, he returned to Columbia and was hired as executive director of the Columbia Soccer Club in 2001. His duties included running competitive and recreational tournaments, organizing coaches for all youth teams and serving as communications liaison for the organization. He also coached the U-11 and U-12 teams.
Mark McIntosh, vice president of the Columbia Soccer Club, knew Mr. Benton since he was a child.
“Brian was a driving force in this town for making youth soccer the best it could be,” McIntosh said. “His loss is a big hole for the soccer club.”
Mr. Benton also played piano and loved music, art and history. Although he was enrolled in MU’s master of business administration program he still found time to baby-sit his niece and nephew.
“You don’t think of a big, tough soccer guy babysitting, but Brian loved it,” Mary Beth Benton said.
Mr. Benton’s love of kids extended to the soccer teams he coached.
“He worried about their self-esteem and wanted them to feel good about themselves,” his mother said.
In his role as executive director of the Columbia Soccer Club, Mr. Benton was responsible for oversight of Pride Park, located off Route 63 north of Columbia. He initiated discussions with the city to have the park included in its planning. He helped improve the turf quality and increased the park’s access and visibility. Mr. Benton also led the effort to bring the Snickers Cup Tournament to Columbia in 2002, wresting it from St. Louis for only the second time in the tournament’s history.
“Brian was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the Snickers Cup to Columbia,” McIntosh said.
Mr. Benton was committed to improving the quality of youth soccer in Columbia. Stan Benton found some solace in the fruition of his son’s hard work.
“He kept working, kept driving, kept going, and now his dream is becoming a reality,” Benton said.
Mr. Benton is survived by his parents; two sisters, Jennifer Rice and Melissa Princivalli, of Columbia; a grandfather, Marvin A. Rosbrugh of Eldorado Springs; and a grandmother, Mary Benton of Columbia.
Visitation is 4 to 8 p.m. today at Community United Methodist Church, 3301 W. Broadway. Services, conducted by Rev. Gary DeWitt, will be 10 a.m. Wednesday at the church. Burial will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery.
Memorials may be sent to the Brian Benton Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W., Columbia, Mo., 65202.