MERRIMACK - Madeline "Nan" Irene Bennett, 100, of Merrimack, died Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, at Mount Carmel Nursing Home in Manchester after a sudden illness.She was born in Nashua on Jan. 30, 1914, a daughter of the late Dennis and Bertha Nash.Dozens of former students greeted Madeline "Nan" Bennett at her 100th birthday party, held Feb. 1, at the John O'Leary Adult Community Center, 4 Church St., Merrimack. Her students, friends and numerous family members reminisced about the old days and the not-so-old days.At her 100th birthday, landmarks of Bennett's life were inscribed on ivory-colored cardstock souvenirs. She attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and graduated from Nashua High. Her teaching certificate was secured in 1933 from Keene Normal School, now Keene State College.Bennett became an assistant teacher in 1934 in Hudson. The following year, she went to teach in a one-room school house, Rural School House No. 7, on Joppa Road. Additional teaching posts followed in East Weare, Hollis and Brookline.She married Alba J. Bennett in 1939. Their daughter, Beverly Ann, was born in 1944. Bennett returned to teaching in 1954. She taught at McGaw Elementary in Reeds Ferry, Merrimack Elementary and Reeds Ferry Elementary schools.It was 1974 when Bennett retired from teaching after 30 years. A job at Rosie's Posies Flower Shop soon evolved into volunteer work at the Merrimack Library. When a vacancy opened, she became a paid staffer. A decade later, in 1984, Bennett's husband of 45 years passed away. She focused on her work at the library and retired not long ago, in 2009.Little did her friends know, they would see Bennett riding in a Conestoga wagon during the Independence Day Parade in 2011. She was the parade's grand marshal and the recipient of the Boston Post Cane, a historical artifact traditionally granted to the oldest resident of the town. The gold-capped, ebony cane was one of more than 400 distributed in 1901 to towns in the readership area of the Boston Post.The newspaper's editor sent the canes with the request they be granted to the eldest resident of each town. Bennett and others considered for the cane rode aboard the wagon, according to the Merrimack Historical Society's summer newsletter of 2011.Today, Bennett, a member of Our Lady of Mercy Church, continues her stewardship as Merrimack's holder of the Boston Post Cane. She cherishes a replica of it. The original is held for safekeeping at Merrimack's Town Hall.The road at the middle school is named Madeline Bennett Way, in honor of her dedication.Members of her family include her daughter, Beverly Haseltine and husband Mark, five grandchildren, Megan Lambert and husband, Robert, and their children, Levi, Lincoln and Lilia; Jonathan Haseltine and wife, Emily, and their children, Chloe and Avery; Matthew Haseltine and wife, Elissa, and their children, Shea, Ty and Chase; Trevor Haseltine and wife, Heidi; Beau Haseltine and wife, Holly; a niece Shirley Hand and husband, Donald, and a nephew, William Haven and wife, Beth.
SERVICES: Calling hours will be held in the Rivet Funeral Home, 425 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, on Monday, Sept. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Burial will follow in Last Rest Cemetery, Merrimack.For those that wish, the family requests memorial contribution to the Merrimack Public Library, Children's section, 470 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 03054.
Published in Union Leader on Sep. 21, 2014.