Nel Ernestine Bennett, 92, of Bridge City, passed away Aug. 22, at Harbor Hospice House in Beaumont.
Funeral services will be held at 1:00 pm, Tuesday, Aug. 25, at Claybar Funeral Home in Bridge City. Burial will follow at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens in Orange. Visitation will be prior to the service beginning at 11:00 am.
Nel was born to Eugene and Ernestine Laborde in Ponchatoula, LA on Aug. 20, 1923. She was their third and youngest child. Nel spent a happy childhood and her teen years in her hometown.
In 1948, she married another Ponchatoula native, John C. Bennett. Their union of 51 years produced three children: Cathy Lynn Bennett, their oldest daughter; Mark David Bennett, their only son and middle child and the youngest child was another daughter, Lisa Dawn Bennett.
John and Nel raised their family on Lansing Ave. in Port Arthur. Their home was the center of many neighborhood activities. The family bought a boat and became very involved in water skiing, swimming and camping out. That love of the water led John and Nel to purchase a lot on Cow Bayou in Bridge City where they hoped to one day build their “dream home”. It took them 14 ½ years to finally achieve that goal. They built their bayou home in 1972 on their lot “Bennett’s Oak Haven.” They spent the remainder of their lives there.
Nel was a stay-at-home mom and she was very proud of that fact. She had worked as a secretary before she married, and probably could have found a job in the workforce when she moved to Port Arthur had she chosen to do so. But, she thought it was more important to put her efforts into being a good wife and mother. She was G-R-E-A-T at both. The family attended the Methodist Temple where Nel and John both taught Sunday School. Nel worked with 1st and 2nd graders while John taught junior high youngsters. Just about everyone recognized the Bennett family by their car…a light green and white 1957 Plymouth station wagon. It was a mainstay around town for over 20 years.
In her later years, Nel devoted much of her time and energies to the Heritage House in Orange. She and John were charter members of the group that moved and preserved the house. She was a docent there and enjoyed giving tours, especially to bus groups whose passengers were young school children or older adults. For many years Nel and her daughter, Cathy decorated the Children’s Room at HHM for Christmas. They made most of the ornaments for the children’s tree and a large portion of the Christmas decorations for the children’s room. Nel made sure the room was never decorated the same way twice. That is why in lieu of flowers, the family suggest that you make a donation to the Heritage House Museum, 905 W. Division St. Orange, TX 77630.
Nel survived many personal and family crises, John’s unexpected drowning and devastating hurricanes, but she could not overcome the ravages of dementia. Over these later years it became obvious that she was mentally declining. She lived with Cathy and Ted for over a year while her house was being repaired from Hurricane Ike. When she was resettled, she tried to live by herself. It soon became apparent that more help was needed. Her son, Mark willingly gave up his life in Nevada to come home and be her caregiver. He took excellent care of his mother. With the three children working together, Nel was able to enjoy and stay in her home until her recent hospitalization.
She fought off the cruel ravages of dementia for over 10 years. She knew that her first great-granddaughter, Avery Hana Bennett was born near her “special” day, Aug. 20, her 92nd birthday.
The family thinks that is another reason she tried so hard in the end. The disease took control despite her valiant effort.
Nel was preceded in death by her husband, John C. Bennett and her brother, John Edward “Buddy” Laborde of Ponchatoula.
She is survived by her daughter, Cathy Lynn Walters and husband, Ted of Bridge City; son, Mark David Bennett of Bridge City; daughter, Lisa Dawn Firmin and husband, Wayne of Groves; sister, Evelyn Louise Kincen of Hammond, LA; two grandsons, Loren Troy Bennett of Goodyear, AZ and Cimeron Lee Bennett and wife, Suree of Las Vegas; great granddaughter, Avery Hana Bennett and numerous nieces and nephews.
“Death casts a dark shadow that cannot linger long in the lovely light of a life well lived.”