Susan P. Benzel

[Age 54] An animal advocate, she was personally responsible for the rescue of hundreds of dogs, cats and horses.

October 07, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun reporter

Susan P. Benzel, a sales coordinator and advocate for animal rescue, died Wednesday of lung cancer at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. The lifelong Parkville resident was 54.

For the past 12 years, Ms. Benzel had been employed in sales at Alex Cooper Auctioneers and Oriental Rugs in Towson. She previously worked in the insurance industry and for several years in the 1980s served as facilities coordinator at the Baltimore Convention Center.

A graduate of Parkville Senior High School, she had attended the former Baltimore County Community College. From her early childhood, she cared for animals, particularly those that had been abandoned.

"Susan was known throughout the area as a volunteer, donor and lifelong advocate of animal rescue, adoptions and no-kill shelter development," said Mel Stimmel, her fiance and companion of 17 years. "She was born into rescuing animals. It didn't matter what."

She frequently adopted feral, stray and neglected cats from shelters.

"She would take in the older ones who had never had a home and make their final years comfortable," said Mr. Stimmel, an engineering consultant and Glen Arm resident. "There was always a rotation of cats at her home."

A large group of like-minded animal advocates recently raised funds to build a feline recovery ward in Ms. Benzel's name at the Maryland Line Animal Rescue Facility.

Ms. Benzel was personally responsible for hundreds of rescues and adoptions of cats, dogs, horses and even a baby fox. She worked with local rescue groups including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Rescue Inc. and the Maryland Line Animal Rescue Inc., Mr. Stimmel said.

She owned two rescued dogs and had until recently provided care for a pair of small blind dogs rescued from the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. She had adopted a Belgian draft horse and was co-founder of Horses in the Park of Baltimore County Inc., a nonprofit group with more than 60 volunteers who care for the horses and offer equine programs at Cromwell Valley Park.

"The day before she died, she was questioning me about taking care of all the animals," Mr. Stimmel said. "When I asked, `Don't you ever stop worrying about others?' she answered, `Soon.' All those animals are getting the good care that was absolutely important to her thanks to her arrangements. "

Mr. Stimmel carried a marriage license for the couple in his car for years. When one expired, he would get another.

"She told me Monday we would get married when she got out of the hospital," he said.

A Mass and celebration of her life will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Ursula Roman Catholic Church in Parkville, where she was a lifelong member.

Survivors include her mother, Lillian Ruth Hornig Benzel of Parkville; a niece; and two nephews.

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