Mary Bates Bentsen

March 15, 1929May 12, 2019

Mary Bates Bentsen died on Sunday, the 12th of May 2019, at her home in Houston surrounded by family. She was born in Houston on the 15th of March 1929, to the late Col. William B. Bates and Mary Dorsey Bates. In addition to her parents and her sister Jean Bates Cartwright, Mary was preceded in death by her husband of sixty years, Kenneth E. Bentsen.

A fifth-generation Texan, Mary attended River Oaks Elementary School, Kinkaid School, Lamar High School, Mt. Vernon College, and received her B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. After college, she co-founded the predecessor to the Houston Invitation Service before marrying the love of her life, Kenneth, on the 3rd of December 1953. Together they raised four children who survive her along with their spouses, five granddaughters, and three great grandchildren.

Mary was an active member of her community, serving on the boards of several state and local organizations including: San Jacinto Museum of History Association (of which her father was a founding board member); Friends of the Governor’s Mansion; Junior League of Houston; River Oaks Garden Club; Town & Country Garden Club; Child Guidance Center of Houston; and Kappa Alpha Theta (life member). She was a member of Bolero, Bayou Club, and Houston Country Club. Mary was also recognized as a member of the Children of the Republic of Texas.

Mary was the epicenter of her family and friends. She was a loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother, trusted confident as sister-in-law, aunt and cousin, and one who collected friends far and wide. Raised in the traditions of Houston in aftermath of the depression, she and her husband cut a wide swath as a stunning mid-century couple in the city’s arts and social circuits from the 1950’s on. As they raised their four children, Mary instilled deep values of trust and honesty, recognition of their Texas heritage, and appreciation for the arts and culture. Having accomplished this with her first generation of offspring, she followed suit with her granddaughters and great grandchildren.

Survivors include her children: Molly Bates Bentsen; Betty Bentsen Newton and Stephen D. Newton; Kenneth Edward Bentsen, Jr. and Tamra Kiehn Bentsen; and William Lloyd Bentsen and Leslie Anne Moyer; her grandchildren: Mary Elizabeth Zimmerman and Zachary Mark Zimmerman; Elizabeth Bates Newton; Louise Colbath Bentsen; Camille Bentsen Newton; and Meredith Ellsworth Bentsen; her great grandchildren: Chloe Zimmerman; Bentsen Zachary Zimmerman; and Luke William Zimmerman; and her sisters-in law: Beryl Ann Bentsen and Betty Bentsen Winn. She is also survived by several Bates and Bentsen nieces, nephews and cousins including: Mary Dorsey Cartwright; Reagan Cartwright, Jr. and Ursula Cartwright; Lon D. Cartwright and Ann Cartwright; Barbara Bates Press and Tom Press; David Quentin Bates, Jr. and Anne Markeson Bates; Lloyd M. Bentsen, III and Gayle Flannery Bentsen; Lan Chase Bentsen and Adele Howell Bentsen; Becky Bentsen Phillips and Mel Phillips; Tina Ann Bentsen; Kathy Bentsen Garfield; Robert Daniel Winn, Jr; Susan Winn Lowry and David Lowry; and Karen Virginia Bentsen. In addition to her many friends across Texas, the family wishes to thank Carla Rivera, Maria Martinez, and Toni Noble for their many years of service and friendship, as well as the staff at her residences at the Hallmark and Inwood Manor.

In addition to her husband, parents, and sister, she was preceded in death by her father and mother-in-law: Lloyd M. Bentsen and Edna Ruth Bentsen; brothers and sisters-in-law: Judge Reagan Cartwright; Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr.; Donald L. Bentsen and Nell McCarter Bentsen; and Robert Daniel Winn; niece Ellen Ruth Bentsen Winn; and nephew Donald L. Bentsen, Jr.

Friends are cordially invited to gather and share remembrances of Mary with the family from three o’clock until five o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, the 18th of May, in the Community Center at The Hallmark, 4718 Hallmark Drive in Houston.

In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed toward the San Jacinto Museum of History, One Monument Circle, La Porte, TX 77571; or to the River Oaks Garden Club Forum of Civics Foundation, 2503 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77098.

Please visit Mrs. Bentsen’s online memorial tribute at where words of comfort and condolence may be shared electronically with her family.


  • Gathering and Sharing of Remembrance Saturday, May 18, 2019


Mary Bates Bentsen

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Sue Schechter

May 17, 2019

I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know Mrs. Bentsen a bit when we had the Sage-ing class at The Hallmark. She was so humorous. I enjoyed being around her. Her Uber story of being at the River Oaks County Club and getting an Uber from California was hysterical. And her meditation finding the Box --- it appeared as the one her husband had that she now kept her cards in. She was fun! What a loss.

Gay Warren Gaddis

May 16, 2019

To Betty and your entire family, I want to send my sincere sympathy at this time of loss. Your family gave so much to Houston and the state of Texas. Thinking of you.

Gay Warren Gaddis

Lisa Ford

May 15, 2019

My deepest condolences to Molly, Betty, Ken, and Will. I remember your beautiful and elegant mother well. She was ever gracious and always with a laugh to share as well. She and your childhood home remain a lovely part of my childhood memories.
With love,