HARRIET JEAN (MITTEN) BENJAMIN, 87 died peacefully at 1:25 am, Sunday, July 13, 2014, at her long-time Wabash home surrounded by loving family members. After a difficult battle, she succumbed to a brain tumor and lung cancer.
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She was born April 20, 1927, in Goodland, Indiana to Harry and Pauline (Hood) Mitten, but following her mother's untimely death when Harriet was only seven, she then was raised by her aunt and uncle, Fanny and Charles O'Neal of Goodland. They preceded her in death.
She graduated from Goodland High School (1945) and entered Stephens College for Women in Columbia, Missouri, known then as a "finishing school," where she majored in marketing.
Life changed one summer night when she and her sister drove thirty miles to Monticello, Indiana, to dance to big band music at the famous Indiana Beach ballroom. There she met a young sailor just home from World War II who literally swept her off her feet. She returned several nights later and she and The Sailor danced until their feet ached. Harriet and Edwin Benjamin were married on December 27, 1946, at Griggs Methodist Church in Goodland. They honeymooned in Chicago, driving up through a snowstorm in a Cadillac borrowed from Harriet's father.
The newlyweds lived in a one-room apartment in Bloomington while Ed attended Indiana University. Later they moved to South Bend, Logansport and eventually Indianapolis, where Ed began his career selling Prudential Life Insurance, and they started their family. Chris was born in 1950 followed by Mark in 1951.
In 1952 they moved to Wabash and into a fixer-upper at the end of Thorne Street on top of the hill. It was the last time Harriet moved. Marcia was born here in 1953.
Few people know that Harriet played saxophone and sang in a professional dance band for four years. When she played baritone sax she had to stand on a chair. In addition to caring for two children with Cystic Fibrosis, she worked for a veterinarian, was Wabash's "Welcome Wagon Lady," sold furniture and earned a Real Estate Broker's license before selling real estate for Century 21.
Always busy in the community, she was a Girl Scout leader and a Cub Scout den mother, president of the West Ward School PTA, a sustaining member and past president of Wabash County Hospital Auxiliary, a star member and past president of Tri Kappa Sorority, a sustaining member of Wabash Unit of Indianapolis Symphony and Wabash Women's Club. She belonged to the Wabash Country Club, serving on the Board of Directors for three years. A life-long member of the Methodist Church, she sang in the United Methodist Church's choir for thirty years.
Harriet played tennis almost daily until she was 75, enjoyed reading, sewing, upholstery, crossword puzzles, discussing current events and bridge. More than anything she loved spending time with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and many treasured friends. She was extremely generous with her time and gifts and kept nearly every thank you note she received.
Harriet is survived by her husband, Ed of Wabash; son, Chris (Janice) of Waterford, Michigan; three grandsons, Scott (Kim) Benjamin of Roswell, Georgia; Mike (Molly) Benjamin of Waterford, and Rob (Amanda Holewski) Benjamin also of Waterford; and one sister, Suzie Sullivan of Hermosa Beach, California. Her great grandchildren are: Maggie Benjamin, Roswell; Grant Benjamin and Carson Benjamin, both of Waterford.
She was predeceased by both of her parents, her son Mark (1974), her daughter Marcia (2010), her brother George and two sisters, Doris (Bill) Holden and Nancy Mitten.
Funeral services will be 11:00 am Friday, July 18, 2014 at Grandstaff-Hentgen Funeral Service, 1241 Manchester Avenue, Wabash, with Rev. Gary Beck of Chattanooga officiating. Burial will be in Falls Cemetery in Wabash. Friends may call 4-8 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home. Preferred memorials are to the Wabash-Miami Home Healthcare and Hospice, or the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at Ft. Wayne, Lutheran Hospital respiratory department.
If there's a dance band in heaven, she'll be very happy, and her feet will hurt.
GRANDSTAFF - HENTGEN FUNERAL SERVICE
1241 Manchester Avenue Wabash, IN 46992
Published in Newton County Enterprise on July 18, 2014