Martha Bennett named 2021 “Mother of the Year”

by Grafton’s International Mother’s Day Shrine,

Where Mother’s Day began

GRAFTON—The International Mother’s Day Shrine at Grafton, where Mother’s Day began, is announcing its 2021 Mother of the Year. Martha Clarie Bennett, will represent the Shrine as its 2021 Mother of the Year, having been nominated and approved by the Shrine’s Board of Trustees.

Martha has been a Grafton resident for most of her life. The only exception was for a brief period when she resided on several US Airforce Bases in Georgia, Texas, and Sacramento, California. She moved to these locations with her husband and high school sweetheart of 66 years, Dr. Charles “Chick” Bennett. These moves occurred while Dr. Bennett was stationed in the Air Force. In 1958, Martha and Chick moved back to Grafton where they raised four children.

Martha was one of seven daughters born to Harold and Ada Kemple. She grew up on the South Side and graduated from Grafton High School with the Class of 1951. She married her husband, Chick, in 1954. While in the Air Force, their first child, Sharle, was born in Sacramento.  After their return from California, Shelby, Chuck, and Chad were born. Martha is “Mom-Mom” to eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 

After graduating from GHS, Martha went to work for the C&P Telephone company. Martha was one of the original “MaBell” telephone operators. She took a short break from the telephone company to be with her husband during his military service.  After coming home from Sacramento, Martha went back to work as a telephone operator, supporting her husband through dental school.

For the next few decades, she was a hardworking stay-at-home mom raising her four children. Later, Martha went to work in her husband’s dental office where she retired in 1996.  She became, like so many, a snowbird in Florida during winter months.

Throughout the years, Martha focused on service to Grafton. As the small-town aged, she helped to maintain its quaint luster. She participated in numerous service organizations such as the Jayceettes, GHS All Sport’s Mothers, Taylor County Arts Council, SanGod Theater, and was a former member of the Mother’s Day Shrine Board of Trustees. 

She has been a member of the First Baptist Church of Grafton for 63 years. She held many roles at the church: treasurer during the construction of the new church, co-chairing Sunday School and Bible School, and serving on the Kitchen Committee where hundreds have been served church dinners.  For 65 years, she was one of the consistent forces behind years of planning and organizing GHS’s reunions.

Through a mission program supported by the First Baptist Church, Martha held a passion for the people of Haiti. Many years ago she began sponsoring two young girls through the mission program, which is a sponsorship that she has maintained throughout the years. This special mission is located in Fort Liberte’, Haiti, one of poorest places in the world. The mission is dedicated to financially adopting children, donating to projects that build schools, provide housing for the elderly, furnishing food and medicines. 

 

When asked, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren described her as selfless, giving unconditionally, and a matriarch to the Bennett family.   They also described her as “someone who taught them that there were no “free rides” and that it takes hard work to earn your way.  She loves family gatherings, and is a fantastic cook, disciplined, and tough. She is not only a matriarch to the Bennett family, but a matriarch to the City of Grafton; a contributor to the community”.  One of youngest said she had really cool building blocks (toys).

Her children would like to thank her for teaching them the value of a dollar and always encouraging them to work hard. She taught them that the janitor should be treated as kindly as the boss.  More importantly, she followed the teachings of Christ, where all people should be treated equal, and all should love one another.

 

When asked what her greatest accomplishments are, Martha would say “her family is first and foremost”.  She is grateful for having been surrounded by many wonderful friends. She is blessed to have lived and raised her children in Grafton.  “Grafton is special; with a tribute each year to veterans by hosting the Memorial Day Parade. Grafton is a town that pulls together when needing to accomplish overwhelming challenges. For example, the project to build a state-of-the-art football field.”  Martha is proud of the younger generation who has continued to work hard to revitalize Grafton’s downtown.

 

Martha would like to thank the Mother’s Day Shrine Committee for this honor.  She says she shares this honor with all mothers, especially those moms, grandmothers, aunts, family members who during this past Pandemic year have had to be moms, teachers, caretakers, healthcare providers, first responders, and homemakers.

 

The 113th annual observance of Mother’s Day, like in 2020, will be a virtual online program. You can log on and view the service on Mother’s Day by visiting: https://www.internationalmothersdayshrine.org/

The Mother of the Year presentation will be part of the online virtual service. The Shrine has named an annual Mother of the Year for many years and it has become one of our Mother’s Day traditions. We are often asked if we think Anna Jarvis would approve of a “Mother of the Year” being part of our Mother’s Day observance. We believe Anna would approve and support this tradition. It fits well with her initial focus for the holiday to, “brighten the lives of good mothers. To have them know we appreciate them, though we do not often show it as we might.”