Friday, February 24, 2006

In Memoriam #1



BENNETT WILLIAMS HART
June 28, 1948 - February 24, 1996




Within a time frame of 2 years, 3 of my nuclear family members died. In year-chronology, my dad was first, followed a year later by Bennett, and a year later by Mom. In month/day-chronology, Bennett was first and thus the #1.

Of the 8 kids in my family, Bennett, 3 years my junior, is the only one who has died. Ten years ago today, at age 47, he had a heart attack while cleaning out Mom and Dad's garage in preparation for the selling of their house in Michigan. Dad had just died the year before; Mom was in assisted-living with Alzheimer's. We never told Mom that Bennett had died but just before his funeral, she went up to one of his photos hanging on her wall and patted it with her hand as though she knew. Maybe she did!

Bennett was the only one of us who had never married or had children. He was, for me, a good mix of bohemian and renaissance man, as seen mostly in his photography. And talk about a perfectionist! Though he taught photography at Lansing Community College and had his own dark room and mat-making equipment for his professional photos shown around town, he could always give you a reason why any given photo could have been improved (I guess I come by it naturally!).

Last Friday, Merlin Princess was explaining to me the difference between solarization and posterization in a post. I told her that I was familiar with posterization because Bennett played around with it in his lab, putting layers of color through his negatives like silk-screening. We always loved seeing what he'd come up with.

But it was his scenic photos while traveling around as a senior-citizen tour bus-driver/guide that captured my heart. He loved Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables!) and Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia. Or Jerusalem, when he went one year with Mom and Dad. He was the expert at capturing the right angle or correct light. I wonder, of course, what he'd do today with all our digital cameras. And would he be blogging? He had his own special community of like-minded souls at his neighborhood tavern, talking and drinking into the wee hours of the night, so maybe he wouldn't have needed to blog.



His other interest, besides photography, was community theatre. I regret, however, that I never had a chance to see him act. All I have are the pictures. He was one of the townsmen in Fiddler On the Roof. What a great play for him because he certainly looked the part, didn't he! (What you DON'T see is that his hair was carrot red!)





Here's a neat little story to go with the one photo of his that will always remain my favorite. He had taken a picture of this grasshopper at sunrise/sunset (how appropriate for Fiddler On the Roof...a connection I just now made!) with the appropriate colors coming through (which did not do well in my scan so I have grayscaled it). The day of his funeral, which was on his property where he was building a log cabin, my sister Ruth and her husband looked down at the grass and noticed a grasshopper sitting on a blade of grass. There he was, with us in Spirit!

And remains so today as we celebrate his life amongst us. I love you, Bennett. Little did you know then that your photography would one day inspire me. But I guess you know by now! I know you're resting in peace, just as restlessly as ever, I'm sure. Say HI to Mom and Dad, who'll have their own memoriams in the next days to come....



24 comments:

  1. Thank you for this memorial post. Hard to believe it's been 10 years. You've done a great job recalling our brother. I'm going to be watching today for more connections -- there were so many around the time of his death, like the grasshopper as you've pointed out.

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  2. Mom, this post brought tears to my eyes. Bennett was always the "odd" uncle in my eyes, but I was simply too immature to see him as the incredibly talented and intelligent individual that he was. Instead I saw someone who appeared to be trapped in time, with the ZZ-Top beard, walking around with a camera in my face and not much to say. When he died and I attended his memorial service, for the first time I saw Bennett through the eyes of his friends as stories were recanted and I realized how much of who he was that my mind limited me from seeing. And I wept, because it was too late.

    Thank you for sharing at least one of his photos -- I wish others could see the other beautiful pictures he's taken. And they would see why we're so proud to show them off.

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  3. wow - lovely post! I think it is probably nice to have such a big family. All of the bigger part of my family I never really knew because they lived so far away. At times I think about living there and visiting them just so that I can get to know them now!

    Hey I got Ramen for the word verification - funny!

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  4. Ruth: He was one of us in probably more ways than we ever realized back then.

    Amy: In many ways he was also "odd" to us Sibs, so it was a different kind of loss when we lost him. It makes you realize how much we need to get to know people "as they are" while they're alive. Your comment brought tears to MY eyes. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Yes, he had MANY photos that others would marvel over. We're all very proud of him/them.

    Expat: Thanks for commenting about this post on my brother. Having a BIG family was "normal" for us growing up but I can see how "strange" it must be for those who never experienced it. I have only two children and if something happened to one of them, only one would remain. In my Sibs' case, there are still 7 of us!

    Word verification can sometimes be totally amazing! Even eerie :)

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  5. That was really a beatiful memoriam Ginnie. I myself have only one brother. But my mother comes from a family of 8 (now 7) and they have a summer Christmas party every year. I've always really enjoyed that.

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  6. DW: Thanks.

    CS: So you are like all my nephews and nieces who enjoy the get-togethers with my big family. You know!

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  7. Thanks for sharing some of the story of your brother's life. It sounds like he meant a lot to you. And if you got your photography skills from him, he must have been a skilled phototographer.

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  8. Rarely to I recognize what I missed by being an only child. Obviously Bennet enhanced your life and you cherished his. I trust that he knew that.

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  9. Tim: Bennett definitely was professionally skilled as a photographer. If I got anything from him, I am most honored. I do think we both had innate compositional sense.

    SPW: Believe it or not, my mom was an only child! She actually wanted 12 kids , which I can hardly fathom. She ended up having 8 of her own and at least another 4 for periods of time throughout our lifetime who were wards of the state. She got her wish. Of course, I can't imagine being an only child!

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  10. I finally took the time to read your post. So wonderful! And this picture at the end is "magnifique". I'm sure I would have been friend with Bennet. :)

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  11. What a touching tribute to you brother, Ginnie. How wonderful it must have been to have known him in person.

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  12. MP: Now that you say it, I think you and Bennett may have had a lot in common! Soul friends.

    Christina: Thanks. Sometimes it's only in hindsight that you see how wonderful a person was. I didn't know Bennett that well because we were geographically distant from each other most of our adult lives. The same is true of the rest of my Sibs but I'm trying to do a better job of staying in touch so it doesn't happen again!

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  13. It' very touching and very nicely done. I think I will never look at a grasshopper with the same eye. Those pics are great.

    My husband dies at the same age, 47. So young! Heart attack, perfectionist... sound so familiar.

    Thank you for sharing!
    :O)

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  14. Oh my, Clo--all the similarities! Who knows, maybe they're part of a special club right now, comparing notes. And we'll all get together one day and high-five each other. That will be nice. I'd like to meet your husband.

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  15. Wow, Ginnie, what a nice thought! Guess we will, some day... But I do hope that before, we'll meet somewhere down here! :O)

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  16. Oh yes, Clo. Absolutley! You and me and MP and Mei--some day in Quebec City! And THEN your husband and Bennett :)

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  17. These posts are just priceless! I wonder if I'm an oddball like him in others' eyes. I wonder if all of us Harts are. Oddballs without the beards- I loved what was said about getting to know someone while they are here! I wish I could have been at the funeral to hear the stories.

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  18. Rachel, I think there IS an "oddball" trait in the Hart clan :) At least that's what the in-laws lead us to believe. But then, they all wanted to marry us, right?!

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  19. That's right. Oddballs are few and far between, rare jewels- priceless and loved like no others!

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  20. Beautiful photograph. Your works were so emotive, describing Bennett. His photograph, a window into him, speaks volumes about his soul. Striking visual that will remain with me long after I close this window as will your story of him.

    In thinking over "oddballs," I am always reminded of this text from Apple's "Think Different" campaign and want to share it with you, Ginnie: "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them... about the only thing you can't do is ignore them, because they change things, they push the human race forward; and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

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  21. Your quote, Kathryn, has brought tears to my eyes! What a gift it is for me as I think of Bennett. He was barely understood or loved by all our kids, his nieces and nephews. But after he died, I think they knew he was someone special. Your words have greatly touched me. If by chance you leave a comment on SC, I would like to copy and paste this quote there from you! Thank you.

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