Verta C. Bennett
August 30, 1917 – March 13, 2019
Verta was born over 101 years ago, on August 30, 1917, in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, as Verta Irene Campbell, to George and Edith Campbell. Her Canadian father, George, was an auto mechanic, the son of a baker, and her mother, Edith, was an American from Essex, Massachusetts. Through her US-born mother, Verta became a naturalized American citizen. When her family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Verta was just two years old, with two older brothers, Gordon and Bob. Later two younger brothers were born, Jack and Bill. All four of them adored her and protected her. She outlived all of them.
Life in Cambridge was not easy. Although living near Harvard Square, in the shadow of renowned universities, Verta was from the “other side of the tracks,” and experienced discrimination. At the age of 12, she took a job at the famous Lahey Clinic in Boston, in the filing department, where she was respected for her diligent work and her ability to find files that no one else could. She used her paychecks to purchase a washing machine for her mother, so her mother wouldn’t have to scrub the soiled mechanic’s clothes by hand with a washboard. Verta’s wise, loving mother, whose picture had a place of prominence in Verta’s room to the very end, was an anchor for the whole family. Verta’s teachers recognized her natural gifts and intelligence, in spite of the extra burdens she was carrying, and ensured that she graduated from high school.
Three things brought particular joy to Verta during her growing up years. One was the Sunday School and youth group at Old Cambridge Baptist Church, where Verta first learned about God’s gracious love for her. Another was her music. She had an extraordinary mezzo-soprano singing voice, and usually had a leading role in the musicals put on by the youth group at the church. The third was her boyfriend, Dick Bennett, an electrical engineering student at Northeastern University, who later became her husband, after he finished his MBA at MIT.
Together they sang in the choir and in the church musicals. As Dick’s career in business moved them from place to place, they continued to sing in church choirs, often with Dick as the choir director, and even sang together on a Christian radio station. The singing coach with whom they both studied in Boston, Mr. Newcombe, always stressed that the most important part of the song was the message that it conveyed, and Verta was known for the clarity, power and emotion of the words that she sang—whether a popular love song at a banquet, or an excerpt from a classical oratorio, or a simple hymn, or an old spiritual like “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.”
Verta was devoted to her family. She and Dick had two daughters, Anita and Joan, and then a son, David. Dick’s very demanding jobs took Verta to live in Illinois (three times), Kentucky, Maryland (twice), Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ontario (Canada), Massachusetts, Florida, Wisconsin, and even Italy for several months of consulting. In 1978, they retired in California close to their son.
Like her own mother, Verta was deeply committed to her children, staying home to raise them, and passing on to them a love for music and for God. Whatever city they lived in, Verta and Dick found a neighborhood with excellent schools for the children, and a Bible-teaching Baptist church. Verta was always involved in building into the lives of children and young people, as well as reaching out in loving concern to people in the neighborhood. For several years in Ontario, she was head of the primary department of the Sunday School, and a few years later in Baltimore she started a charm school for adolescent girls in her church. A number of these young people kept in touch with her for years later, because of the mark she had left on them.
When Dick suffered a debilitating stroke in late 1995, they made their final move to New Jersey near their older daughter and her family. They chose The Pines at Whiting, a new continuing-care retirement community near Toms River, NJ, where Dick could receive skilled nursing care, while Verta had an apartment in the independent-living section of the building. She lost her beloved husband of 60 years in November of 1998, and continued to live independently for many years. Three and a half years ago she moved to the skilled nursing section of The Pines, where she celebrated her 100th birthday, before completing her journey three days ago at the age of 101.
During the years the children were growing up, and for many years afterward, Verta faced a variety of health problems, some of them life threatening, involving numerous surgeries. But she had seen much improvement in recent years. Her whole family is profoundly grateful—and astonished—that she has lived longer than any of her relatives, six months beyond her 101st birthday to be precise. Today she has three children, five grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren.
What words might people who knew Verta over the years use to describe her? Committed, passionate, good-humored, deep, compassionate, fun-loving, resourceful, resilient, persistent, sensitive, perceptive, loves the Bible, prays for her family—to name a few. In Proverbs chapter 31, the Bible describes a woman who is clothed with strength and dignity, who speaks words of wisdom, and whose children rise up and call her blessed. That is the Verta Bennett whose life we are remembering today.
- Visitation Saturday, March 16, 2019
- Services Saturday, March 16, 2019
- Graveside Service Monday, March 18, 2019
Verta C. Bennett
Dale Campbell McCarthy
March 16, 2019
Dear Anita, Joan, David and all your families,
Sincerest sympathies to all of you from myself , John and our family for the loss of sweet Aunt Verta. Though distance over the years have kept us from sharing family times together, Aunt Verta’s phone calls on my Dad’s Birthdays and cards to Mum and Dad at the holidays always were warmly welcomed and would delight us all. She would never miss these occasions. She was a truly loving person.
We hope the love she shared with you over the years will help you all through this difficult time.
With Love to all your family,
Dale and John McCarthy