about Margaret Prepared for Rev. Gail Williford
Benjamin (née Montgomery), widow of Roy ("Ben") Benjamin, sister of
Roberta "Bobbie" Hoehn (deceased), survived by her daughter, Meril
and Meril's husband Michael.
and her sister, Bobbie, were young girls when both their parents died within a
few months of each other. It was a time
when children were seen and not heard, and certainly not informed of serious
matters of life and death. When
Margaret's mother, Agnes Montgomery, died of cancer, she simply went off to the
hospital and never came home.
their father had contributed to a fraternal organization that ran an orphanage
and so the girls had a place to live through the stock market crash and the
tough, early years of the Great Depression.
But their small inheritance disappeared and one of the residents stole
the few pieces of jewelry Agnes left her girls.
money for college, Margaret moved to Cincinnati when she graduated from high
school at the orphanage and went right to work, renting an apartment where
Bobbie could join her when she too graduated.
Her first job was at a trucking company where her organizational skills,
exploited by the boss in arranging liaisons with his lady friend, made Margaret
living in Norwood and working nearby, she met Roy
("Ben") Benjamin, one of the few young
single guys with good prospects who was taller than
she was. Dating during the Depression meant
the occasional movie but mostly trips to Graeter's
for ice cream, paying a nickel a cone there,
when less delicious alternatives were a mere three
also helped out in Ben's various businesses by keeping the books and dealing
with clients in her masterful way of persuading folks to do what they were not
otherwise inclined to do - and then convincing them it had been their idea all
along. His long absences on business
trips meant she had to learn to deal on her own with such things as blizzards, hurricanes,
a car that wouldn't start (but could be nudged downhill in first gear until it
did), a flooded basement, dogs that ran away, funerals for expired goldfish, a
washing machine that trekked across the kitchen floor, and a fireplace that put
more smoke in the living room than up the chimney.
was a stay-at-home Mom for Meril, taking on volunteer jobs related to school
and helping out with the local volunteer ambulance corps and the church
choir. When Meril went off to Vassar,
Margaret took the opportunity to start a new career in property management,
using her organizational and diplomatic skills to run an office of 15 real
estate agents and later managing a complex of 300 apartments. She never lost her enthusiasm for
accomplishing things and for being busy doing something useful.
The day before she died, she told Meril that
there was a project she feared she wouldn't be able to finish. We don't know what that was, but Meril said
she'd help, and that seemed to reassure her.
Margaret was focused on getting things accomplished, until the very end.
in life, painful things included the harsh comments Margaret heard when she
learned Meril was on the way, long after she and Ben had given up hope of
having children. "You'll never
live long enough to raise that child; it's irresponsible to have a baby at your
age," her critics scolded. She was
not dismayed, even on the first day of kindergarten when she arrived with Meril
in tow and the teacher demanded to know where this child's mother was, and why
her grandmother had brought her?
Margaret took it all in stride, and has had the last word by outliving
the nay sayers.
were in Margaret's blood. She loved
campaigning for her husband, developing a thick skin to deflect the nasty stuff
that always played a role in elections.
She remained active and informed, helping Congressman Brady organize a
Social Security workshop in 2005 at the apartment complex where she lived and being
proud that Meril was on his staff. She
would be honored to know that a tribute to her will be included in the
Congressional Record when the House of Representatives reconvenes next month.
last election campaign was at age 86, when Michael was running for re-election
to the Grogan's Mill Residential Design and Review Committee. Meril and Michael had to be out of town on
election day, so Margaret took over at the polls, chasing voters with her
walker, handing out leaflets, and urging folks to re-elect her son-in-law
because he was doing such a great job.
He won by a landslide!
was a constant in Margaret's life, despite a less than stellar beginning. As with most youngsters of her generation,
she endured piano lessons and detested having to practice. But she loved to hear others perform and
encouraged Meril to develop her singing voice and to perform at La Scala. Like Meril, she cherished especially the
mystical works of Bach and the sublime music of Mozart, but also loved singing,
including with the Sweethearts group in The Woodlands until age 90.
remarkably tall for her era, Margaret had a terrible time finding clothes that
fit her, so she did the next best thing, she made her own. But it took her two years on a salary of $5
a week to save the $200 to buy a Singer sewing machine. She used it for the next 60 years to make
everything from work clothes to ball gowns, curtains, slipcovers, outfits for
Meril's Barbie doll, and Meril's concert dresses and magnificent wedding
gown. Because Ben was so ill in 1990
when Meril and Michael got married, they had to plan the wedding by long
distance. Meril drew a sketch of the
gown she wanted and sent it to Margaret in Phoenix. Margaret designed and made it, flew with it to Los Angeles
(fortunately, no lost luggage) where it fit Meril perfectly.
never lost her interest in fashion or her belief in being well groomed. That meant doing her hair and putting on her
make-up every morning, whether or not she felt up to it. Local volunteers delivering meals-on-wheels
to Margaret's neighbors would often see her out walking in the morning - hair done
up and make-up on. "I always get
dressed every morning, because chances are someone will call me to do something
and I want to be ready to go," she told them.
loved to travel. In her early years
with Ben, this meant cross-country trips on rutted roads in their Model A Ford.
she loved his family dearly and they went often to visit his aunt and uncle on
their farm outside Falmouth, Kentucky, she never grew used to the hardships of
farm life in the 1930s - no indoor plumbing or central heating. But she loved sleeping under a goose down
featherbed and learning from Aunt Josie how to make the pies that Ben expected
for Sunday dinner throughout their married life.
Margaret had experienced air travel, she was ready to go anywhere. She especially loved going to Europe,
visiting Meril when she lived in Vienna and, later, Meril and Michael when they
lived in Paris. The Paris trip held
especially wonderful memories for her since it coincided with her 77th birthday
which they celebrated with lunch at the Jules Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel
Tower. Margaret was not about to let a
detail, such as not speaking French, keep her from having the adventure of a
lifetime. Armed with a card explaining
in French who she was and where she was staying in case she got lost, she
explored on her own their neighborhood full of
fashion houses and boutiques, disarming even the most tourist-weary
Frenchman with her captivating smile and a toss of her fluffy white curls.
was never one for "roughing it."
Her idea of camping was Motel 6, a rule enforced when Ben decided they
should spend their retirement roving the west in a motor home. As with all the vehicles he acquired
throughout their marriage, it simply arrived in the driveway one day,
unannounced. But Margaret put her foot
down. The way she saw it, traveling in
a motor home meant she had the same chores as she did at home, but with fewer
conveniences. So, when they moved to
Arizona, Ben ended up driving there and she flew to meet him. And they lived in a house affixed to solid
loved Arizona but gave up the desert to be near Meril and Michael in The
Woodlands. As her hearing failed, she
had more and more trouble understanding soft-spoken Michael, insisting it was
his strange Texas accent!
tells of one of her last conversations with Margaret, who asked where she
was? "Why you're in
Texas." To which Margaret
responded, "oh no!"
enjoyed a lifelong love affair with food, although never too much, since she
weighed 132 pounds her entire adult life (except for the few months before
Meril's arrival). Until the end, she
enjoyed her weekly treat of a chocolate-peanut butter malt from Culver's.
the chef-de-cuisine of the Markley household, remembers well her fondness for
potatoes. When she was living nearby
and Meril would call to invite her for dinner, Margaret's first question was
always, "are there potatoes involved?" If so, the next question was inevitably, "would they happen
to be garlic mashed potatoes?"
Usually, the answer was yes and Margaret would show up a few minutes
later. Since Margaret had "retired
from cooking" some years earlier in favor of Stouffer's frozen
dinners, Michael's home cooked meals
were a welcome respite.
same token, there were some things she detested, such as broccoli. When asked by the nurse on one of her many
visits to the hospital, if Margaret had any known allergies, she always offered
up "broccoli." While this
allergy was probably new to the annals of medicine, she hoped it would ensure
none arrived on her tray.
loved teasing the hospital workers who were used to dealing with elderly
patients and their tendency to misplace their dentures. When they would ask her where her
"teeth" were and if she'd left them on the meal tray, she would say,
"they're in my mouth, where they've been for the last 90 years."
had a love of animals, especially cats and dogs, but most of all dogs. And they loved her, sensing a kindred and
indulgent spirit. Before Meril and
Michael got Mischa, their miniature schnoodle, Margaret hinted around
considerably about how nice it would be if they had a pooch. When Mischa arrived on the scene as a 2 1/2
pound puppy, Margaret became his special friend and babysitter. She enjoyed having all the fun and none of
the responsibilities - after all, chasing after a puppy while relying on a
walker was not a recipe for success.
When Margaret came to live with Meril and Michael after recuperating
from a fall, Mischa would go to bed with her every night, laying under the
covers with her until she had fallen asleep, and then jumping down to resume
his other activities.
numbered among her favorite creatures were bugs, especially the big tree
roaches native to Southeast Texas. Her
relentless crusade against them led to a nasty fall late one night when she was
heading to the kitchen. Chasing the bug
with her walker, she lost her balance and fell, fracturing her pelvis. But not before she whipped off her slipper
and squashed the miscreant. And that's
how Meril found her, unable to get up, but happy to have dispatched her
once asked Margaret why she didn't seem bitter or resentful about the events of
her childhood. She said she was, at the
time, but decided she did not want to live the rest of her life that way. So she stored painful things deep in her
memory banks and focused on the positive and the joyful, supported by her
strong faith and her belief in the inherent goodness of people.