We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Smith Funeral Home Moulton
Geraldine ‘Jeri’ Billingsley Benker passed away peacefully on April 22, 2022 at the age of 82.
Jeri was born in Lufkin, Texas on July 14,1939. Most of her childhood was spent in the small town of Redland, TX, where Jeri and her family were active members of the community. Jeri’s mother was a home economics teacher and her father was a high school principal & superintendent, so she was raised to value the importance of education.
Jeri had a talent and love for dance and art from a young age. While attending Kilgore Junior College, from 1957-1959, she was a member of the esteemed Kilgore Rangerettes dance drill team. She was selected to join the ‘Swingsters’ which was a small, elite group of Rangerettes who traveled and performed. Some highlights from Jeri’s Rangerette years included visiting Chicago in 1958 to perform at the International Harvesters Convention and getting featured in the August 4, 1959 edition of Look magazine.
After graduating from Kilgore Junior College, Jeri went on to spend 4 years at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) in Nacogdoches, earning her Bachelor of Art degree in 1961 and Master of Art degree in 1965. In May of 1963, Jeri embarked on an overseas trip with a friend. While they were in New York City on the way to Europe, she met her future husband Wilhelm ‘Tex’ Benker by chance on a helicopter ride shuttling them between airports.
Meeting Tex on the helicopter, and then connecting with him again in Europe, was the adventurous beginning of a marriage that would take Jeri on countless exciting travels, including many trips to Germany where Tex was born and raised. During the next two decades, Jeri’s time was devoted to raising her family and teaching art to high school and junior high school students.
Jeri loved painting with oil paints, using a palette knife to add layers and textures to her beautiful works of art. She drew inspiration from nature and pastoral scenes, as well as her beloved family. Over the years she worked with a variety of media including sculpture, collage, and driftwood.
After retiring and moving to their beautiful ranch in Moulton, Texas in 1999, Jeri enjoyed years of traveling to exciting locations with Tex. Jeri always brought along her sketchbook to capture the wonder of the sites they visited, including penguins in the Antarctic and icebergs in the North Pole. Jeri & Tex enjoyed hosting guests for dinner at their ranch, where Jeri’s artwork and photographs of their travels are lovingly displayed and guests were treated to Tex’s gourmet meals.
Jeri is preceded in death by her mother Eddie Eloyce Billingsley and her father Littleton Council Billingsley. She is survived by her husband Wilhelm Ernst ‘Tex’ Benker, sons Wilhelm ‘Bill’ Benker (wife Amy) and David Benker, grandchildren Alexandra, Shirah, Robert, and Arden, and her brother Littleton Council Billingsley Jr ‘Bill’ (wife Kay).
A burial and memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association or a charity of your choice.
Smith Funeral Home Moulton will be in charge of the services for Geraldine “Jeri” Billingsley Benker.