MARY BENNINGHOFF DeWALD, 102, passed away Tuesday, March 30, 2021, 3:10 p.m., of natural causes in Summerville, S.C., in the presence of her loving family. She was a resident of Fort Wayne until 2013 and resided in Mishawaka, Ind., until August of 2020. Born Aug. 13, 1918, in Fort Wayne, she was a daughter of the late Howard and Ellen (Doyle) Benninghoff. Mary 's interest in beauty and fashion started at an early age. Truly, it comes as no surprise that she was often mistaken for Olivia de Havilland, an actress best known for her part as Melanie in the movie Gone with The Wind. Mary had many opportunities to announce and plan ladies' style shows for Hutner's Paris and the Wolf & Dessauer Department Store in Fort Wayne. Not only did she write the descriptions for the clothing and accessories that each model wore, she often chose the entire outfit worn down to the shoes and did the descriptions for the audience and official program. While she worked at "The Paris," she was asked to try on all the incoming size 9 clothing to determine if was marked correctly. In 1940, Mary was chosen as a Beauty Queen by the Indiana University Arbutus yearbook staff during her senior year of college. It became a wonderful life-long accolade that afforded her many opportunities and wonderful memories and a great segue way into terrific stories about life at college in the 1940's. Mary was a third grade teacher and earned a lifelong teaching license before starting a family. This provided many teaching opportunities apart from full time employment such as substitute teaching, bedside teaching for home-bound students, and tutoring students needing extra support. Flexible hours in turn allowed her many opportunities to join social clubs that further expanded her interests. On July 27, 1943, Mary and Paul DeWald were united in marriage. They were perfectly suited for each other. This former Beauty Queen and her suave dashing businessman made great dancing partners to big band music and enjoyed attending and hosting parties. They were very proud of their two children, Daniel and Nancy. Dan is a published author, Vietnam veteran, and supply chain consultant and Nancy is a Spanish teacher and benefit manager. Mary was a member of the Fort Wayne Art League which ignited her love of working with crafts and art, Yarnelle Child Study Group, Phi Lambda Theta Alumni group, Chi Omega Sorority Alumni group, The Fort Wayne Women's Club, Alpha Omega Sorority, and another passion of hers - Book Club! She loved to read and give reviews of current books and inspired a love of reading and authoring for her own children and many others. In addition, Mary found time to be Dan's Den Mother for Cub Scouts and Nancy's Girl Scout Troop Leader. Always mindful that there was time to do more, Mary's interests included many hobbies that benefitted all who knew her. She discovered creative opportunities by sewing outfits, even using her own ideas for patterns and embellishments. She found new ways to provide for her five grandchildren by finding material she loved and making an assortment of outfits, including pajamas, jackets, and even berets. Then, there is jewelry! She became prolific in making colorful earrings and gifted many with her creations. Finally, she became enamored with painting - both oils and watercolors. She loved to do scenes of people of all ages and gifted her art as well. In fact - she even found a way to decoupage watercolor paintings together to make beautifully detailed scenes. Truthfully, Mary just did not sit around. She had FUN! She was active through her 80's and bicycled, swam, golfed and bowled. She enjoyed being on the decorating committee if any of her social groups held dances and spent many hours faithfully phoning other club members to make sure each one knew the events coming up. She loved entertaining and her buffet meals were always colorful, varied and the delight of any gathering. Mary always found a way to keep productive, present, and sharp. "Mary Benninghoff DeWald - what a wonderful life to share!" She is survived by her brother, James Benninghoff of Fort Wayne; son, Daniel (Sandy) DeWald of Summerville; daughter, Nancy (Stephen) Ball of Cassopolis, Mich.; grandchildren, Katie DeWald (Guy Bieber) of Mesa, Ariz., Jon (Tori) DeWald and Erika DeWald (Tony Tallent) of Summerville, Christopher (Maranda) Ball of Findlay, Ohio, and Kelly (Amy) Ball of Granger, Ind.; as well as 13 great-grandchildren and her beloved nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her sister, Marjorie (Lee Ninde); and husband, Paul Christopher DeWald. There will be a private service later to honor her exemplary life and accomplishments. Memorial contributions can be made to Roper Hospice, 1483 Tobias Haddon Blvd., Suite 1098, Charleston, SC 29407; or Plymouth Congregational Church, 501 West Berry St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802. Arrangements are being facilitated by Simplicity Funeral Home in Summerville, South Carolina, and Covington Memorial Gardens of Fort Wayne.
Published in Fort Wayne Newspapers on Apr. 11, 2021.