Joan S. Benesch, sex education advocate

Joan S. Benesch, a reproductive rights and sex education advocate, died June 28 at her home in Washington. She was 88.

The cause was cancer, said her daughter Sarah Benesch.

Mrs. Benesch was volunteer coordinator of the Urban Service Corps in Washington in the 1960s and early 1970s before co-founding the Sex Education Coalition of Metropolitan Washington, which trains teachers and school staff on teen sexuality.

While at the coalition, she was also employed by Planned Parenthood divisions in Washington and Baltimore and was coordinator for the organization’s Justice Fund, which helps subsidize abortions.

“We need to begin as early as kindergarten helping our children develop the language skills to communicate their thoughts and feelings about sex,” she told The Washington Post in 1994. “But since the topic is so taboo, we tend to let fear rule and end up using innuendo and conveying misinformation.”

Mrs. Benesch was a board member of several councils and advocacy groups focused on sex information. For her work with Planned Parenthood, she received volunteer leadership awards.

Joan Lynn Sagner was a Baltimore native and a 1946 graduate of Columbia University’s Teachers College. She was a homemaker and a League of Women Voters volunteer in Pittsburgh before moving to the Washington area in 1963.

Mrs. Benesch volunteered for the Democratic Party in Washington and was a committee member of two civic associations in the Forest Hills neighborhood of the city.

Her hobbies included bird-watching and playing bridge.

Her husband of 64 years, William M. Benesch, died in 2010.

Survivors include three daughters, Amy Benesch of Yonkers, N.Y., Sarah Benesch of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jane Benesch of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; and a brother.

— Trishula Patel

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