In Memory

Vojmir F. "Bud" Benak

2/11/1943 - 3/16/2018

Longtime gymnastic coach at South Omaha Sokol.  OPS science teacher at McMillan Jr. High.

Preceded in death by parents, Vojmir and Emma Benak. Survived by wife, Sandra; sons, Vojmir "Buddy" Benak Jr. and Bohumir "Bo" (Abby) Benak.

FUNERAL: Thursday, 11am, Korisko Larkin Staskiewicz Chapel

VISITATION: Wednesday, 4-7pm, with 6pm Sokol Honor Guard Service at Funeral Home.

Interment: Bohemian Cemetery.


Longtime South Omaha gymnastics instructor 'Bud' Benak embodied spirit of Sokol

By Blake Ursch / World-Herald staff writer


Even in his later years, you could find Bud Benak on the parallel bars.

The longtime South Omaha gymnastics instructor continued to train and compete into his 60s. He was a Sokol after all. And that meant cultivating “a sound mind in a healthy body,” as the tradition goes.

Vojmir “Bud” Benak Sr. died Friday at his home. He was 75.

Over his 57 years as head gymnastics coach at Sokol South Omaha, Benak taught more than 8,000 students, his family estimates. In addition to being a dedicated instructor, he is remembered by loved ones as a tinkerer, a science teacher, a proud Czech and a lifelong athlete.

“He just enjoyed the sport,” said his son Vojmir “Buddy” Benak Jr., a physical education teacher at McMillan Magnet Center. “He was my mentor. He taught me everything. About life. About Sokol. About gymnastics.”

Born in Omaha to parents Vojmir and Emma Benak, Bud Benak grew up in the Sokol tradition. The movement, named for the Czech word for “falcon,” began in Prague and emphasized physical, mental and moral strength. Sokol gymnasiums began to pop up in America in the 1860s. By the 1880s, Omaha had two: Sokol Omaha at 13th and Martha Streets and Sokol South Omaha at 20th and U Streets.

Benak’s grandfather was one of the original directors of Sokol South Omaha. He passed the business on to his son, Benak’s father, who ran it until his death in 1960. Benak, just 17, took over, coaching there until shortly before his death.

“I’m not sure I can put my finger on one thing,” Benak said in 1981 when The World-Herald asked him what had driven him to run the gym for 21 years. “Once in a while you will see someone who catches on and likes it. I guess that’s all you can ask for.”

Benak’s father had coached Phil Cahoy Sr., father of Omaha Olympian Phil Cahoy Jr. Sometimes, Cahoy Jr. would visit Sokol South Omaha with his dad. He has memories of Benak training while simultaneously shouting instructions to others in the gym.

“I remember Bud in that old gym, and the haze from the chalk that the gymnasts used. ... Bud was a fixture in that place to me,” Cahoy Jr. said.

As a coach and a mentor, Benak was not particularly verbose, said Peter Lattanzio, a family friend who, in the early 1990s, began attending workshops in which Benak taught aspiring gymnastics instructors. But when he did give praise, he meant it.

“He carried this kind of energy and aura to him. He wasn’t a man of a lot of words,” Lattanzio said. “I don’t remember having extensively long conversations with Bud. They were short and brief but very poignant. And that was all that was needed.”

Benak had a life outside of the gym, too, his family said. He was interested in science and taught the subject to eighth-graders at McMillan for almost 30 years. He was a dedicated hobbyist, his son said, who tinkered with model trains and HAM radios.

But Benak’s family is perhaps most proud of the legacy he left in the thousands of students he taught over the years. His wife, Sandra, recently received a letter from a former Sokol South Omaha gymnast written to Benak.

“This quirky, awkward 13-year-old had a home away from home,” it reads. “For many years, you were a father figure to me.”

Benak was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife, Sandra, and sons Buddy and Bohumir “Bo” Benak.

A visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Korisko Larkin Staskiewicz Funeral Home, 5108 F St. There will be a 6 p.m. Sokol Honor Guard service.A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the funeral home.