ONEONTA – Dawn Adams Benjamin, 92, a former clerk at the Huntington Library who raised eight children outside Oneonta, died peacefully on Feb. 26, 2019 at Fox Nursing Home in Oneonta.
A number of weeks before, Dawn fell and broke her hip at her residence at St. James Manor, where she had lived for five years. Prior to that, Dawn lived in Otego for eight years, but she lived the bulk of her life in the big country house outside Oneonta where she and her beloved husband raised their children from the mid-1950s on.
Dawn Adams Benjamin was born on Jan. 10, 1927, in Binghamton, to Isabelle Adams Russell and Hanford Russell. She graduated from high school in Binghamton, after which, at age 19, Dawn Adams Russell married Richard Leroy Benjamin on Nov. 1, 1946.
Over the next 17 years she gave birth to eight children, whom she and Dick did a remarkable job of raising into caring, responsible, interesting individuals. The story is that when they married Dawn wanted two children and Dick wanted six, so they compromised and had eight. Dawn was devoted to her husband Dick, who was her best friend, and spent many years caring for him at home after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It was due to her loving care and dedication that Dick was able to live in their home until his death in 2009.
Dawn worked for many years as a clerk at Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. But her most important role in life was caring for her family and her husband. Her wonderful care -giving was infused with her personal passions which included reading, walking, and gardening. When she got “a minute alone” she loved to go to her bedroom alone and read a good book.
She usually didn’t remain alone for long as kids would wander in and climb in the bed with her. Sundays were often devoted to long walks in town or country, but only after she had made one of her delicious Sunday dinners. She was a terrific “dump” cook, always ad libbing with whatever ingredients she had available. She was also a seamstress (engendering several children who sewed and quilted) while she herself made clothes and Christmas presents for the children for years.
She loved decorating her home, often searching for special treasures at garage sales, which she usually attended with one or more of her children. Her older kids benefited from her musical abilities as she taught them all to play the piano.
Dawn loved her children, but in a way that allowed them to be themselves. Never one to directly tell others what to do or how to live, Dawn modelled for her children a way of being that included non-judgmentalism and practicality. She was an inveterate philosopher and continued to ponder the “why” of life until the day of her death. She fostered both intellectual curiosity and creativity in all her children. She raised a truly diverse bunch of children with quite differing personalities and abilities, yet she handled all with equanimity and kindness. She was a remarkable wife, mother, grandmother, sibling, and friend.
In the last few days of her life, as her children gathered around her to dote on her and say goodbye, referring to her children as “chickies”, she said, “I loved my life and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about any of you.” Thank you, Mom. We will miss you tremendously, but you are always with us in our hearts. We are blessed and honored to have been at the center of your life.
Dawn is survived by six children: Gail Pearce of Sachse, Texas; Richard Benjamin and his wife Barbara of Portlandville; Kay Benjamin and her partner Jean Blackburn of Norwich; Bruce Benjamin and his wife Alice of West Davenport; Carol Wood and her husband Robert of Oneonta; David Benjamin and his partner Cathy Runkle of Santa Barbara, Calif; daughter-in-law Margaret Benjamin of Laurens; and son-in-law Leon Beach of Oneonta. She is also survived by her sister and brother, Valery Hardy and Dale Russell, both of Binghamton, and by ten grandchildren, fourteen great grandchildren, three nieces and nephews.
Dawn was predeceased by her husband Richard, her parents Isabelle and Hanford Russell, her daughter Janet Beach, and her son Eric Benjamin.
There will be a memorial luncheon 12:30 p.m. Thursday, March at 9 St. James Place, just outside Oneonta. Feel free to join the family and Dawn’s friends at the Manor for a time to remember her and look at photos from her life.
Arrangements are entrusted to the Bookhout Funeral Home.