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By Kathryn Jacewicz
A beloved wife, mother, daughter and sister all describe Stephanie Bessmer, but those who knew her will remember her for much more.
Bessmer, 48, died Sept. 9 as a result of a weather-related wreck in Johnston County. She was on I-40 when her car hydroplaned during a rainstorm.
She is survived by her husband, Bill; two sons, Michael McDonald, Matthew McDonald and his fiance, Lauren Harris; her parents, Ronnie and Kristi Mann; her brother, Ronnie Mann Jr., his wife, Lauren, and their two children, Wade and Caroline; and many other family members, friends and co-workers.
Bessmer worked at Security Savings Bank in Southport, where she was recently promoted to vice president and branch manager. She also volunteered to serve the past four years on the Communities in Schools of Brunswick County Inc.’s (CIS) executive board, and most recently served on the executive committee as the resource development chair.
Cynthia Tart, executive director of CIS, said Bessmer had one of the hardest jobs of anyone on the board. She was responsible for fundraising and meeting the goals of the non-profit organization.
“We just had lunch on Monday and talked about what a challenge it had been for us to raise the money,” Tart said, noting the program is more than $80,000 short of where they need to be. “We knew we were going to have to cut programs if we hadn’t raised the money. She was really stressing that she just had to do more to help the community and help the board meet our goal. We’re working even harder now to reach that goal.”
John Thompson, a past CIS board member, remembers Bessmer for volunteering to help with everything she could, whether it was CIS’s annual Benefit Gala, Belville Planning Board or spending a day walking for Relay For Life.
Thompson said from the minute she joined CIS, he knew she would give her heart and soul to the organization.
“You know, you really can’t know what someone’s thinking, but the evidence of her commitment was always there in the level of her participation with CIS,” he said in a written tribute to Bessmer. “Her constant response was ‘OK,’ or ‘I’ll do it.’ I’d often call her or write her a note and she’d respond ‘Done,’ or ‘Got it!’ She was just outstanding. Stephanie was somebody I could count on.”
Mike Kellerman, a co-worker of Bessmer’s husband and a longtime family friend, said she would be remembered for the kind person and good friend she was to everyone.
“They’re going to remember her as caring, compassionate, hard-working and just a good spirited person,” he said. “She didn’t have any strangers in her life, she was just welcoming to everybody.”
A memorial service for Stephanie Bessmer was Sunday. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Communities in Schools of Brunswick County Inc., P.O. Box 10087, Southport, NC 28461.
“It’s a tribute to Stephanie that she was always behind the scene, doing whatever it took to make things happen,” Thompson said. “She was really building something, a legacy, if you will, with her dedication to CIS.