Doris Lee Steele Bennett, 91, passed away Saturday morning, October 19, 2019, at Baptist Village in Waycross Georgia.
Born in Clearwater FL April 23, 1928, she was the second child of Arabelle Tyre Steele and James T. Steele. She and her brother moved to Jesup when she was just 3 years old after their mother died and she and her brother were raised by her dad’s sister, Kathleen Steele Harper and her husband, Robert (Bob) L. Harper. Along with their daughter Ruby Mae Pittman, born later, the Harpers became her primary family. She would spend summers in Clearwater with her father and brother. The Harper family later moved to Waycross, where she attended elementary and middle schools and graduated from Waycross High School in 1945. She also attended Georgia College in Milledgeville for one year.
While home on summer break in Waycross in 1946, she decided on a lark to apply for a job at the Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company in Waycross. This began a working career starting as a long-distance operator and advancing over the years to work in the business office. It was while at the phone company she met the love of her life, David Arthur Bennett Jr. at a company Christmas party in 1951. They later married in front of the fireplace of the home they built together in 1953 on a parcel of the Bennett family farm in Blackshear. Many of her lifelong friends, though, were those early associates met while working with the phone company. She and David started their family in 1954 with the birth of their first son David Arthur Bennett III. At this time, she became a full-time homemaker and they had two more children Kathleen Frances (Kathy) and Gregory Leon (Greg). The family moved to Jesup with the telephone company, returning to Blackshear and the farm in 1965 when David became ill.
She was always actively engaged in her children’s involvements in school sports, 4-H, band, dance and church as well as extended family and community activities. Throughout her life, she was an avid and active member in the Pierce County Homemaker Association and the Blackshear Presbyterian Church later serving as an elder. As she matured, she could sometimes be reclusive, but as a young mother she was known for a few bold choices, as many remember her deep purple kitchen cabinets. This love of color and art continued throughout her life with a lifelong love and skill of drawing and painting taking years of art classes, entering competitions and later teaching art. She produced many artworks and crafts over the years sharing them in the community, with extended family and instilling a love of color, design and creative endeavors with her large family and friends. One of her efforts in this area along with artist Pinky Bass, included launching The Bee-Hive Art Gallery in Blackshear focused on featuring local artists work.
After her husband died in 1975, and her second child entered college, she returned to working outside the home.She took a job at Pierce County Hospital as a purchasing manager and later moved to the Okefenokee Area Heritage Center helping archive and display historical artifacts and artworks showcasing the community’s rich history in rail locomotion and timber harvesting. Given a lifelong membership in the Blackshear Presbyterian Church, she then worked as office manager for a period of time, and she and other members were instrumental in founding the Blackshear Presbyterian Childcare Program which continues serving the community to this day. When time and resources permitted, she also enjoyed traveling visiting many states, park sand historical sites either with the homemakers’ association, family or others.
She would be the first to admit she was not a meticulous housekeeper, but she was an avid organizer of family mementos and genealogy and in her later years wrote of memories and life experiences.
Some of the pivotal moments she described in her writings were:
• Having lost her mother at three years old…
• Having married a “wonderful” man, and with him having three “mostly” marvelous children. She said that what gave her life meaning and purpose was that having been raised with love by her father’s baby sister and her husband, she credited them with the positive things in her life. To quote her, “The Lord knows what He is doing”.
Doris, Mom, Mimi is and was so deeply loved and admired by her family and friends for that independence, entrepreneurial and feisty spirit that she will be missed everyday for the rest of our lives. The family is indebted to the amazing caregivers, doctors, nurses and extended family who helped enhance her life.
She was preceded in death by her husband, David Arthur Bennett Jr.; an infant daughter; three brothers-in-law, Charles Leon Bennett, David Pittman and Edwin Riggins and two sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Charles and Louise Conley and Jim and Joan Bugos.
Survivors include her children, David Arthur Bennett III (wife, Shirlee Bennett), Jacksonville, FL, Kathleen Frances Bennett (husband, Douglas S. (Casey) Herbert), Durham, NC and Gregory Leon Bennett, Blackshear; four grandchildren, Jennifer Lee Bennett/Urbano (husband, Marco), Amanda Kay Bennett Sanders, Lee Steele Bennett, Sara Ann Bennett; her four great-grandchildren, Stella Grace Urbano, Olivia Simone Urbano, Liam David Sanders and Clayton Seth Sanders; a sister, Ruby Mae Pittman, Blackshear; sisters-in-law, Jean Bennett Riggins, Waycross, Ruth Bennett Esmonde (husband Dave), Snellville and Anne Crosby Bennett, Blackshear; 20 nieces and nephews and several other relatives and friends.
Visitation will be held from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at Blackshear Presbyterian Church.
Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, from the Blackshear Presbyterian Church.
Interment will be in the Blackshear Cemetery.
Sympathy may be expressed by signing the online register at www.pearsondial.com.
Pearson-Dial Funeral Home of Blackshear is in charge of arrangements.