Obituary for Beatrice Loretta Neill (Bennett)
Beatrice Loretta Neill (Bennett), 72, went home to be in the presence of the Lord on July 26, 2017 from breast cancer; she passed at home in Essex Junction, Vermont, surrounded by her loving family. She was born in Southampton (New York) Hospital July 29, 1944, the same hospital where Jackie Kennedy was born. Bea was the daughter of the late Margaret and Tunis Bennett, of Springs, NY Margaret was named after her mother's friend who was keeping a trunk for her when she went down with the Titanic. She was an 11th generation Bennett, a descendant of the founding fathers of her town.
Her father wanted to go into the ministry but ran out of funds during The Depression. He lived his life accordingly and passed his ideals and values on to his children. Bea embraced the beliefs of many religions and found daily comfort simply by looking outside and seeing the majesty of God's work; the singing of His birds, glorious colors or flowers and trees, and in the beauty of our changing seasons. While she loved Christmas, she adored the Spring season and the wonderful message that Easter brings.
Bea graduated East Hampton High School in 1962 and went to work the next day at Sag Harbor Industries; she then quickly moved to Bulova Watch in Sag Harbor'. September 12, 1964 she married the love of her life, Ralph W. Neill, at Springs Community Presbyterian Church in East Hampton. Last year they celebrated 51 years of marriage.
He was the wind beneath her wings, was everything to her and she knew she was blessed. Together they raised two daughters, Susan Coolidge and Karen Shearer. Bea often said their girls were her two heroes and was immensely proud of the caring and compassionate women they became.
Bea was involved in volunteer work from the early 1970's, first with Essex Junction (VT) senior citizens, then the Vermont Achievement Center in Rutland. There, she served as the Essex Junction chairperson for and then the Northwestern VT coordinator for many years when it was affiliated with Easter Seals. Bea found her 20 years as a Hospice volunteer a most rewarding and spiritual experience.
She had a lifelong interest in art and attended some art classes at Community College of VT. She liked to say that she dabbled in art and was in the Late Bloomers and Buds art group, which brought much joy to her with the friendship and sharing of their talents. Bea and Ralph also enjoyed the swim class at the former Racquet's Edge and their friendships there. She loved her friends and they knew she was trustworthy of anything confided in her. She and Ralph also loved card games with their dear friends, going out to eat with them and sharing so much together.
In addition to her parents, Bea was predeceased by her grandson David Allen Coolidge, her brothers Harold Bennett, Thomas Bennett and Wesley Bennett, and her grandparents and maternal great grandmother, all of whom she spent much time with in her youth.
She also was predeceased by her godmother for whom she was named, Beatrice Beckwith, her sisters-in-law Myrtle Smedy, Jackie Bennett, her nephew and godchild Phillip Bennett, brother-in-law Everett Neill and her dear in-laws Laura and Bernard Neill. She was privileged to care for her ailing father-in-law during his last six month and proud that he wanted to be with her and her family during that difficult time.
Bea is survived by her husband Ralph W. Neill of Essex Junction, daughters Susan Coolidge of South Burlington, VT and Karen Shearer of Essex Junction, son-in-law Christopher Coolidge of South Burlington, and her grandchildren Emily and Maggie Coolidge and Ethan Shearer, whom she loved a gazillion times over. Also surviving are her sister-in-laws Sandra Bennett of Indianapolis, IN and Rosalie Bennett of Port Washington, NY; her sister Diane Lutz and husband Robert of Winslow, ME; brother-in law Lewis and Maudean Neill of Montpelier, VT; Andrea Brett, who Bea considered a third daughter; many dear nieces, nephews and friends and relatives in her hometown on the East End of Long Island, NY. Her husband called her "the glue that held her family together".
Her husband, children and grandchildren were her joy. She loved being a grandmother and doing arts and crafts with them, making family birthday cakes and family dinners. She especially enjoyed decorating the cakes her grandchildren requested, whether a fancy castle with doors than opened, one with real jewelry or a highway with cars and trucks.
Bea fought cancer with faith love and humor. When she was with someone who seemed negative, she would think that "they had cancer of the attitude" and that she would rather have what she had than that. She tried to live by The Golden Rule and would tell people that hugs were healing and you couldn't give one without getting one yourself. She once saw a bumper sticker that said "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual being having a human experience". She had an extensive collection of lighthouses which she used during her first battle with the disease, outhouses in which she could see spirituality (it doesn't matter if rich or poor or the color of their skin), glass birds, little drummer boys and angels. She loved clipping favorite comic strips and various quotes that she found meaningful. She figured God must have a sense of humor; after all, He made crickets!
Her favorite singer was Jim Reeves. She and Ralph were privileged to meet his widow Mary Reeves Davis and visit with her a couple of times in Nashville, TN. Bea and Mary wrote each other several times. Besides the promises of Our Lord, the music of Jim Reeves comforted her soul during her battle with breast cancer. She was also proud to receive a thank you from the family of humorist Erma Bombeck for the card she sent to Erma. She was honored to be friends with nationally known speaker Christine Clifford
Beckwith, who founded The Cancer Club and lectured using humor to deal with cancer. Christine included an excerpt from a letter Bea sent her in her book "Cancer Has Its Privileges"; great stories of hope and laughter.
A memorial service will be held Friday, July 28, 2017 at A W Rich Funeral Home in Essex Chapel at 6:00 PM. Visiting hours will be held from 4:00 – 6:00 pm at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to her home church, Springs Community Presbyterian Church in East Hampton, NY or Hospice of the Champlain Valley in Colchester, VT. In honor of Bea, feel free to wear the brightest color clothes and bring a non-perishable item for the food pantry; both will be so appreciated by her. You are also invited to share your memories and condolences by visiting www.awrfh.com.
Her last wish is to have her ashes spend eternity with her beloved husband Ralph.