The cups that cheer for Ben

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ANYONE who has ever belonged to a club will know just how much they can, at times, become like an extended family.

Members might not be linked by blood, but they share a common interest that can forge lifelong friendships.

For more than 15 years, Albert ‘Ben’ and June Benoit were at the heart of the Jersey Classic Vehicle Club family. Then last year, June passed away and the club lost half of one of its most committed and passionate couples.

However, club members wanted to recognise their contribution and organised a little surprise for Ben so that the memory of one of their favourite grandmothers would always live on.

For years, Ben and June had been a regular feature at classic vehicle events in Jersey and beyond, sitting or enjoying a picnic together alongside their beloved Austin A40 Mk II Countryman. Ben, who finished his varied career as transport manager at the JEC, bought the A40 from Falles, where it had been used as a staff car, in September 1962. He and June drove it until 1978, when it was laid up.

Then, in 1992, he decided that it was time to return the car to its former glory and they worked together in the garage to see the project through to completion.

Eight years later the A40 was in concourse condition and soon became a star at many classic car and Austin events in Jersey, Guernsey and the UK. In one year alone, Ben and June and their A40 won seven trophies and their names appear on several cups presented by the club.

Recently club members got together to remember June and celebrate the couple’s contribution to the club – and there was a surprise in store for Ben. Around four years ago, Ben, now aged 81, was at the heart of discussions about the problem of cups that didn’t come back.

‘Years ago we used to have cups and trophies which the winners returned each year so that they could be presented to the next winners, but the system simply collapsed because the cups came back filthy and without having been engraved,’ said Ben.

‘At one stage we had lost five cups because people did not bring them back, although we have had a couple of those back since. Three or four years ago we decided that we would keep them all and put them in a cabinet.’

Unfortunately, nothing happened. But about 18 months ago, just after Ben’s wife died, the club found itself a little short of cash.

‘I thought it would be a nice gesture to make a donation to the club in memory of June,’ he said. He intended the money to go towards general club funds, but the members had other ideas. They decided to buy a trophy cabinet and place it in a room at the Pallot Steam Museum, where the club meets, in memory of June and in recognition of Ben’s generosity and the couple’s contribution to the club.

‘I was in hospital having a minor operation and they decided that while I was out of the way they would install the cabinet,’ said Ben. ‘It was a complete surprise. They kept it very quiet and I thought I was just going up there to count up the trophies,’ he said.

However, the story does not end there, because Ben was adamant that the money was for the club and not a memorial for June, so he has now written another cheque for the cabinet.

• This Sunday Ben and the club members will be out for their annual Christmas run, meeting at l’Auberge du Nord at 10.30 am.

• Picture: Ben Benoit by the new trophy cabinet with grandchildren Paul, Sara and Katie Benoit Holt and club president Carole Keenan. Picture by Tony Pike (00601317)

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