Barbara Benefiel Elder, 88, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, died July 23. She was born September 3, 1931, in Coffeyville, Kansas. She began taking piano lessons at age 5 and played her first solo recital at age 13, receiving musical honors during her school years in Coffeyville. Benefiel graduated summa cum laude in 1953 from Hastings College, Nebraska, with a Bachelor of Arts degree, the second person to graduate with a 4.00 average in the history of the college. She earned a Master of Music degree from the University of Tulsa with a 4.00 average in 1960. She composed a five-movement suite for chamber orchestra in dodecaphony as a requirement of this degree.
From 1956 to 1964, Benefiel served as organist and music department secretary of Boston Avenue Methodist Church, Tulsa, and accompanied the multi-choir program, played services, and presented organ recitals. At Northwestern State College, Alva, Oklahoma, she was assistant professor of music, teaching theory, counterpoint, form and analysis, composition, music history, piano, and organ. During a sabbatical year (1968–1969) at the University of Colorado, she completed resident requirements toward the Doctor of Musical Arts degree with a major in organ performance and Master of Music degree in musicology.
In summer of 1971 she was accompanist for the University of Colorado Madrigal Singers European concert tour. In May 1972, Barbara Benefiel and Fred Elder were married at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, and she was appointed organist at First Presbyterian Church, Tulsa (1972–1974). After service as a legal secretary of Rizley, Prichard and Boone, Smith, Attorneys at Law, she retired in 1986.
Elder was a docent at Philbrook Museum, Tulsa, for several years before serving as a docent at the Harwelden Mansion. She was active in the P. E. O. sisterhood (Philanthropic Educational Association), Wednesday Morning Musicale, and the American Guild of Organists, serving as past dean of the Tulsa Chapter. The Elders enjoyed travel in England, Europe, and Mexico for many years.
Contributions may be made to Boston Avenue United Methodist Church Organ Fund, 1301 South Boston Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74119.