When Mother Nature snatches a baby, the outcome usually isn’t positive.
Prescola Jane was born in Miami to Calvin and Matilda Duncombe on June 12, 1925. She went home with her parents to Bimini where they planned to raise her. A little over a year later, the 1926 hurricane devastated the Bahamas and Miami. The storm’s fury also swept Prescola away. For a full day, Prescola’s family searched for the infant.
Suddenly, amid twisted branches, they heard a cry.
Prescola Jane Beneby’s son Gregory still marvels at the tale — it’s a conversation he often had with his mother, who died on Sept. 10 at 91. She spent a lifetime in Miami serving her church and community.
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“I’ve gone over this story with Mom so many times,” Beneby said. “‘You literally got separated from the family house and blew off?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ They found her the next morning and she was in some bushes and she was alive. She was crying and that was pretty much it. I said to her, ‘You were a miracle baby!’ She said, ‘Yes, I guess.’”
Beneby thinks this could be why his mother devoted 77 years of her life to the Church of God of Prophecy-Miami No. 1, as an evangelist, youth leader and women’s missionary leader after moving back to Miami in her teens.
Obviously, God saved her for a reason.
Gregory Beneby on his mother, Prescola Beneby.
Beneby began preaching at 14. Her revival meetings were held at numerous churches in Miami, Freeport and Bimini. She was known for her Mahalia Jackson-styled voice as she sang lead with the Excelsior Gospelletes of the Church of God of Prophecy and traveled with the Greater Miami Mass Choir on tours of the U.S. and Caribbean. Church leaders were so wowed by her voice that they invited her to be the youth speaker at the Churches of God of Prophecy’s National Bahamas Convention.
Among her duties with the church, Beneby visited hospitals and nursing homes and the South Florida Evaluation Treatment Center in Homestead.
In addition to her work with the church, Beneby was a home health aide for eight years, taught ceramics at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center and was active with Miami-Dade’s Community Action Agency.
“She gave her life to God at a young age at 14,” her son said. “I guess this was inspired by her life and her mother gave her life to God. I think they were inspired by God and also the fact she was this miracle child, as well. Obviously, God saved her for a reason.”
Beneby, also renowned for her baking and cooking — pound cake, bread pudding, mango ice cream and crab and lobster with rice — and love of travel, was the widow of postal worker Luriel Beneby. The two wed in Miami in 1948 and raised six children in their 55-year marriage. Their son Lehman, a member of the national tour of the Broadway gospel musical “Your Arms Too Short to Box With God,” died at 50 of a heart attack in 2001. She was also predeceased by her daughter Beverly and granddaughter Marisol Munoz.
In later years, arthritis confined Beneby to a wheelchair but her voice rang strong for singing and preaching. For her 87th birthday, Church of God members threw a party for her at her Northwest Miami-Dade home.
“We ate, talked, laughed and prayed. I cried to see how much love I received from them,” Beneby told the Miami Herald in 2012. “It really touched me to see how thoughtful my friends are.”
Beneby is survived by her children Althea Beneby-Duren, Judith, Alvin and Gregory; grandchildren Obie, Douglas and Christina Duren; and great-granddaughter Simone Clark.
A viewing will be at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Range Funeral Home, 5727 NW 17th Ave., Miami, with a memorial at 6 p.m. at Miami Shores Christian Church, 10150 NE Second Ave. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of God of Prophecy-Miami No. 1, 4528 NW First Ave., Miami.