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Barbara Lea Benson Whitt

1938 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Barbara Lea Benson Whitt Obituary
Barbara Lea Benson Whitt

Inverness, CA

Barbara Lea Benson was born April 4, 1938 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Harold Burgess Benson and Hazel Josephine Scott. Both her parents were from Nebraska farming families. She died after a short illness on July, 31, 2017 in her Inverness Park home of 45 years where her daughter Lazuli was born.

When Barbara was five, her family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where she attended White Station School and graduated from East High School in 1956. Her favorite memory from childhood was riding her horse Patsy through the open countryside outside Memphis. Though her parents wanted her to go east to college, she went west to the University of Oklahoma, where she met her future husband Michael Whitt or Whitt, as she called him. They were married on July 25, 1959 in Palos Verdes Estates in a brief ceremony overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and shortly thereafter moved to Berkeley where Whitt enrolled at the University of California and she worked for the university to support them.

In 1961 after his graduation, Whitt was drafted into the army during a Berlin Crisis and they were stationed in Germany where she worked for American Express on the post. In 1964, they moved to Galveston, Texas, where he enrolled in medical school and she resumed her education, earning a degree in Education from the University of Houston and obtaining a teaching certificate in Art, which she taught for two years in junior high.

After a year in San Francisco and the birth of their first child Garrett, the family moved to Inverness, where her husband opened a general practice. A daughter Lazuli was born in1973. Surprised to find there were no art classes offered in the local schools, Barbara started an art program at West Marin School as a volunteer with two other women and taught there for several years. When her children were in school, she was president of the local PTA and of the Site Council. Skip Kehoe, a long-time trustee of the Shoreline Unified School District, told her he thought she would make a good trustee, but she declined to run for the board because it would require travel at night throughout the district and take her away from her family.

Barbara began her art career as a ceramicist and jewelry maker, moving to watercolor painting of flowers and gardens and eventually to photography. In 2014, Observations, a book of her photographs matched with her husband's poems, was published by their friend Carole Fisher. Two family shows featuring her work were held at Toby's gallery in Pt. Reyes Station.

Her real passion was education, especially for children who would be the first members of their family to attend college. It was through the Inverness Garden Club Scholarship Committee, where she served for over 20 years, including stints as Chair, Vice-Chair and Treasurer, that she was best able to satisfy this desire. In 2004, she was made an Honorary Member allowing her to serve on the Committee "as long as she wants." She also served as President of the Garden Club.

Barbara was also a strong supporter of Marin Agricultural Land Trust's art show Ranches and Rolling Hills, feeding and putting up visiting artists and providing lunches for the hangers of the show until she became disabled.

She was the bookkeeper for her husband's practice for over 30 years and worked the front desk when needed.

Her life can best be described as one of good cheer and quiet resolve.

Barbara is survived by her husband of 58 years; a son, Garrett Whitt of St. Helena and daughter, Lazuli Whitt (Whitman Shenk) of Inverness Park and grandsons, Ozzie Shenk and Huckleberry Shenk.

She was predeceased by her mother, father and brother Craig.

Donations in her memory can be made to the Inverness Garden Club Scholarship Fund, PO Box 724, Inverness, CA 94937

A memorial service is planned in the near future, date and time to be announced.
Published in The Commercial Appeal on Oct. 1, 2017
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