Our Mother, Claire Richardson Bennett, was a Force to be Reckoned With. She was a living legend, a pioneer in her field of business, a loving Wife, Mother (4), Grandmother (3), Great Grandmother (5), Aunt, and loyal Friend to many. She was dedicated, positive, determined, and ALWAYS wanted to be in control. Most of all though, Mom was deeply loved and will be missed by the many lives that she positively impacted over her nearly 95 years.
Mom’s amazing story starts on April 25, 1928 when she was born in Burlington, VT to Walter E. and Charlotte A. Richardson. She was the youngest of two girls, fondly sharing that she was “Daddy’s Girl” and the “Son He Never Had”. Her father was in the construction business and regularly made sales calls with Mom in tow. This fascination with buildings and structures ended up becoming Mom’s life long passion.
Mom spent her childhood years living in Arlington, MA. To the very end, despite having lived in Indiana for over 60 years, Mom continued to call herself a “Bostonian”. She graduated from Radcliffe College (in three years) with a degree in Architecture, as well as the Harvard Graduate School of Design. While living in Massachusetts, Mom met her husband and our father Paul Allen Bennett. They married in 1950 and lived happily for 53 years until he transitioned in 2003. The Bennett family grew quickly. Mom regularly and proudly boasted she birthed four children in four years! During her time in Indiana, she kept busy; raising four successful children while at the same time running her own business, and serving her community. Mom battled and overcame breast cancer and survived and thrived in dealing with Dad’s debilitating accident and permanent handicap.
Mom’s eye for design and the need for artistic expression led to a successful career in Landscape Architecture. She was a pioneer and role model of her generation, having founded her own business, Claire Bennett Associates Inc in 1974. Her achievements, medals, and awards fill an entire room in her home and are too numerous to individually mention. She was most proud of receiving: Sagamore of the Wabash (for dedication and service to the State of Indiana by enhancing it with the beauty of her designs); 1st Woman President of Harvard Club of Indiana (and any Harvard Chapter); National President of ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects), Trustee of Indianapolis Museum of Art. Follow this link for a beautiful tribute about Mom (produced in 2019 by the Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects).
Mom took pride in stating that she never smoked a cigarette, never drank a cup of coffee, and ate a banana every day. She loved black jelly beans and helped herself to a robust handful just yesterday!
When not working, Mom’s happy place was spending time with her family and friends on Martha’s Vineyard Island. She loved playing tennis, gardening, sailing with her friends, and Mom always had a dog to walk! The family will hold a small celebration of life on the Island later this summer. Memorial contributions may be made to Indianapolis Museum of Art (Newfields), 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis, IN 46208, where Mom designed the “Garden for Everyone” in honor of our Dad.
Mom was adored by everyone she met, but she was loved the most by her husband Paul; children Pam, Sandi, Debbi, and Dob; sons and daughter-in-law David, Mike, Debbie; her (adopted) son Dusan (Miki); grandchildren Melissa (Cory), John (Stephanie), Lauren (Tray); great grandchildren Madison, Bennett, Hailey, Piper, and Haven Claire; her dearest and closest friend Alan Day, and her extended ASLA family.
Mom truly lived by the words from her favorite song “Smile”:
Smile though your heart is aching.
Smile even though its breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.
If you smile through your fear and sorrow.
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you.
Light up your face with gladness.
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near.
That’s the time you must keep on trying.
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.
Rest in Peace Sweet Momma. We know Dad and Lauren have your hand, you are dancing with Angel, and without doubt, YOU have already changed Heaven’s landscape!