Holly Gildea, Captain Mike Benke’s daughter, says, “It doesn’t matter if you were a perfect stranger, he was always there to help.”
She says as a dad, he was the best listener.
Gildea says, “He’d always give you those hugs that you needed. You just wanted to vent, you didn’t need any advice, you just needed to vent and have somebody there, and he was so perfect for that.”
And someone she could joke around with.
She says, “He was cooking French toast and he wound up burning it. I was little, but I would never let him live that down. So every time he would cook French toast I would say, ‘You’re not going to burn it right?’ Well, after the fire, I happened to be craving French toast, so I made French toast, and I burnt it, and the smoke alarm went off in the house, I was like, ‘Okay, okay dad, I got it’.”
She says her father loved being a fireman, and even in the light of this tragedy, would still encourage more dedicated people to join the department.
Gildea says, “I think he would just continue to tell them, do what you love.”
She says growing up, she did worry about her dad having such a dangerous job, but knew he was following that same advice.
Gildea says, “He was my hero. Your hero doesn’t die. Your hero always saves the day.”