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Ms. Benoit was my American mom

February 16, 2011

Ms. Benoit became my American mom when I lived in Lake Charles from January 1974 till July 1975.

She was very dear to me and I loved being with her. I felt she "saw" me and reached out for me. I felt embraced by her warmth and interest and I was forever grateful to her for her sensitivity, her immense hospitality and last but not least her sense of humor. I treasured all of these features in her and being a wannabe teacher I so enjoyed her taking me to her school and sharing her library. I still remember her joking when she noticed my astonishment to the separate staff rooms:-)!


We spent Christmas Eve together and I was introduced to a drink called Eggnog - Ms. Benoit always wanted to make sure that I knew about all the American traditions!

She did not have a dish washer and I felt at home due to that fact and she shared her philosophy concerning dishwashing and hygiene!

I once peeped into her secret room that "noone was allowed to see" - and I was intrigued by all the books and clippipngs from newspapers!

Best of all events were our trips to the camp. Never ever in my life had I seen plants - bamboo - like the plants growing there and I learned so much from our walks in the surroundings: Ms. Benoit was a wonderful teacher and host!

After I returned to Denmark we met three times:

First in 1976 in England where she had signed up for a Shakespeare study journey. We spent a week together and marvelled at 3 plays together because she arranged the tickets. We saw two plays in London and one in Stratford-upon-Avon. It was great.

The second time we met was in 1977 in Odense, Denmark. The birth town of Hans Christian Andersen. We had traditional Danish smørrebrød and tea and had good laughs! We only had the afternoon together...

The third time was in 2000 when I returned to Lake Charles for the first time since 1975. I brought my husband - Anders - and our two youngest children - identical twins called Astrid and Naja - then aged 16! It was a 'must' for me to return to Ms. Benoit. I so wanted to see her again and I so wanted to share this wonderful and lovable person with my family.

Thank you, Ms. Benoit, for your genuine generosity. You rubbed it on to the next generation and I adore you for that.

Love, Susanne



February 13, 2011

The Sun comes up in glorious splendor,

The Sun goes down with the remains of the day,

Time marches on always forward,

How time does change us all!


My Aunt Margaret

February 13, 2011

My Aunt Margaret was my mother's fraternal twin. They were very different in many ways but had such a close relationship that often they would pick up the phone to call each other, the phone would not ring, and I would hear her say , Margaret ? They had called each other at the same moment, the phone did not even have time to ring. They were also both widowed within a short span and were very strong women who forged ahead and supported each other.

I have fond memories of Sundays at the Benoit house. My mother would make a cake from scratch every Sunday and we would go over to the Benoit's for lunch and a leisurely  Sunday afternoon eating desert and coffee.

I can tell you how brilliant my Aunt Margaret was--you could , and I often did, ask her a question about any random topic, and voila---she had the answer, and a very descriptive one at that. She had  such an amazing character, her many books, her sweepstakes entries, her exotic and fascinating travels, never a dull moment. She was engaged in life ....she loved tennis, her camp, bird watching, nature , her family. As I  called my mother I would always ask how Aunt Margaret was and she would say----oh she hurt her knee on the steps of the Parthenon, or she is going down the Amazon again... One very funny memory was during one of her travels, mother was to collect her mail every few days from the neighbor, Mr. Smellsor ( who grew fabulous camellias ) who told my mother to back up her car----back up her car ! ? She had received that much mail in only a couple of days--too funny ! Aunt Margaret always seemed so busy.....

Another deeply fond memory was of our clay bake ornaments that Yvonne, Betty, and Michelle and I would create  before Christmas with our mothers while perched  around her large round oak table. This was so much fun, and it was so inspiring to see how elaborate these creations became. I remember Betty making an angel with a harp, using wire for the harp strings (or was it Tiny Tim ? ).....this was a brilliant idea we all enjoyed so much. We then painted these , some were very 60's inspired....everyone was chipper.

We grew up, moved away, but in my collective memory I will always be amused by my Aunt Margaret.


Much love,

Liz (McLaughlin ) Marsh

February 12, 2011

although i can't find any pictures of namie I did find one of our camp kitchen and of course my brother and I playing in the sand at camp.  When I come up with something more original or one of the pictures of namie that I know I have somewhere I will post those.


February 12, 2011


I thought Margaret was an intelligent and interesting and lovely lady. I admired and enjoyed her piquant sense of humor. I remember being astonished -- and impressed! -- by her collection of so many issues of National Geographic that I often said I thought they were actually holding up the walls of her house! 
I know I visited her comfortable little camp on the bayou at least once. It was so calm and peaceful there -- fitting to her warm, welcoming personality. I had forgotten about the outhouse -- surely a minor inconvenience, considering the magical setting.  She herself created that magic.
February 11, 2011


My mother was keen on cleaning out "clutter", which often included our childhood toys and mementos, so I was amazed and inspired by Margaret who kept every book, toy, doll and stuffed animal her children enjoyed. I was so impressed that she still had their wooden, convertible high chair when Phil came along. As with the high chair, every item in her house seemed to have a history and I was always delighted to hear the stories.
My best memories of Margaret were at the river, where, again, she seemed to continually find new "magical" things in nature to share with all of us. Ruth and Phil were mesmerized as she entertained them with games and outdoor activities, transforming every situation into a teaching moment. It was a pleasure to watch their interactions and a pleasure to know her.  She was most definitely an amazing woman.

First meeting

February 10, 2011

I met Mrs. Benoit when I was in the 7th grade at Oak Park Junior High in Lake Charles.  I was probably in that study hall that she didn't appreciate.  She shared with me that she had a daughter who had a horse and suggested that we ride together.  I don't know if she regretted that or not because Yvonne and I became good friends during our turbulent teens.  I too remember that long hall full of books and seeing her hair touch the floor (she wore it in a bun during the day) when she let it down before bed.  I don't know if it was true, but I believed that she hadn't cut her hair since her husband and/or her son had died. I imagine how difficult that must have been for her.

I remember her kindness and generosity to me, and the endless boxes of frozen broccoli that she provided for Yvonne and me to eat.  She was very forgiving of our teen years.  I was surprised to learn of her travels and her journalist career - I wish I would have had the maturity to ask her about her life during the time that I knew her.

February 10, 2011

Dearest family,

So very sorry to hear the news of Nana's passing. She was such a kind and loving person. I know you will all miss her very much.

I have such fond memories of her from childhood I'll always treasure. Summertime at the camps, swimming and playing the latest game she'd invented for us, and learning about all of the plants and critters around. Good times.

She was such a sweet lady and I'm so glad that I was lucky enough to know her.

Even though she had been ill for a while, it's always hard when the day finally arrives. You're all in my thoughts and prayers.

Much love,


Last Walk in the Woods

February 10, 2011

A few days before Mom began her severe decline I picked her up at her facility and we ventured out.  We went to the library in the Heights were she marveled at all the books. "Books. Books. Books," she said over and over, and I hoped she remembered her years as a librarian and all the kids she loved who loved books.  We sat and looked at a colorful cookbook.  She pointed to the titles of the recipes and I read them aloud, attempting a most savory voice, "Chicken glazed in pomegranite with kale and polenta."  She laughed.  A businessman peered over his newspaper and smiled at us.  It was such a lovely day, though chilly, and Mom was doing so well, that I didn't want to take her back to her place.  So I got the wrap Yvonne had loaned me and bundled Mom n her wheelchair to venture along the walking path in the middle of Heights Boulevard.  Mom so loved being out in nature. "Trees, trees, trees," she gestured high.  We rolled close to tall pines so she could run her hands over the chunky bark.  We nestled up in a low slung pyracantha bush filled with red berries that made her let out her familiar "ooo-hoo" (which meant something wonderful or interesting was afoot).  We picked up china balls and a few colored leaves and a young woman even paused in her dog walking to let us pet her wiggly puppy. Mom didn't talk much but each time I stopped to bend and show her something or look at her face she was smiling and grateful.  After an hour or so, she said brightly, "You are getting your exercise."  That made me laugh. Eventually we meandered back to the car.  I settled her in then wrangled the wheelchair into the trunk.  When I got behind the wheel, Mom was carefully placing each item we'd looked onto the car console.  How in the world had she kept them in her hands as she'd gotten into the car.  I thought of all the "nature" ornaments we'd grown up with that she'd display on some table: bird eggs, feathers, cicada shells, snake skeletons, camellia blossoms balanced in water, magnolia cones, fat acorns. So much, so beautiful, so simple and so complicated.  That was all Mom, too.

Hunting for Treasure

February 10, 2011

The week before Mom died, Yvonne and I were taking her out and about every day.  When she saw us at her Assisted Living facility the first thing she would say is "what are we going to do" or "where are we going."  A roll in the wheelchair down the aisles of Carolyn Thompson's Antiques Mall was a favorite place, as were thrift stores where we could hunt for "treasure" with Mom ably guiding her walker through the aisles.  "Hunting for treasure" was something we grew up doing.  Mom and her twin sister, our Aunt Mary, would load us in a vehicle and we'd hit antique stores and junk shops hither and yon.  Uncle Raymond, Mom's younger sister's husband, always teased us about looking for anti-queues, as he insisted antiques were called.  Mom and Aunt Mary were sure their keen eye would discover the priceless item covered in dust or tucked in a corner.  And sure enough, many of the beautiful things my sisters and I now share came from those outings.  I remember a big house in north Lake Charles that we especially loved.  It was filled with antiques and the upstairs attic was set up like a playroom.  We couldn't actually play with those old toys but seeing them was cool and creepy.  Another advantage to that spot was the slow, old pony in the field in front.  Its name was Thistle and we brought carrots and goodies to feed.  Mom and Aunt Mary could "hunt for treasure" while we adventured outside.  I'm sure we'll still go "hunting for treasure" and I'm sure we'll think of Mom each time we do.

Thoughts of Nammie

February 9, 2011

When I think of Nammie, two distinct images come to mind. The first is of Camp. That little house on the Calcasieu river will be forever etched in my memories. My summer camps as a youth were often spent with Nammie. And inevitably, that meant spending time at the camp. Fishing, swimming, walking, carving paths through the thick woods, it seemed there was always something to do there, even if it was simply sitting on the porch and drinking some lemonade. Oddly enough, some of the main recollections about the camp that have stuck with me over the yeards are memories of that outhouse. Little more than a few planks of wood over a pit of lye, it was always an interesting experience to venture into that place, especially at night! But there are so many memories of Camp that I can't even begin to fit them all in here. 4th of July, driving through flooded low water crossings, Sue and Kit's wedding, volleyball, ping-pong, snakes, alligators, rafting, swimming, digging, walking, the giant cypress tree...  But behind of all this lies the presence of Nammie, owner, caretaker and embodied spirit of the Camp.

The second image that comes to mind when thinking of Nammie is that long hallway in her house, stacks of books along one side and the cabinet in the back piled full of old comic books. Though I was generally more interested in the comics, I was always in awe at the sheer number of books and magazines that were kept in that hallway.

And though I never really thought about it before, I guess these two images are a summation of Nammie's personality. Adventurous, outdoorsy, tough-as-nails, stubborn, persistent, bookworm, collector, librarian, caretaker. And someone who will always be in my heart. I miss you Nammie!


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