Mary Martha Bennett turned 100 years old on April 24, and she enjoyed celebrating this milestone with friends and family at The Terraces of Boise, the senior living community she calls home. Born in Parma, Idaho, the lifetime painter married during WWII and says her biggest joy was raising her family. Over the years, Bennett has created countless cherished memories and beautiful works of art. To commemorate this special occasion, The Terraces of Boise put together a lovely celebration with the theme “Young at Heart.” Sean Rogers performed big band music, which is her favorite. The Terraces of Boise put together a slideshow of photos capturing significant periods or events in Bennett’s life. The celebration included a champagne toast and one-hundredth birthday cake.
“I may have turned 100 years old, but I still feel like I’m 29,” said Bennett. “I think the secrets to my longevity are having a wonderful family, my faith and my healthy eating habits, meditation and exercise. I’ve lived an amazing life so far, and I am very thankful for all the things I have experienced. I would have to say that marrying my husband and raising my family were the most meaningful experiences, while living through WWII was the most impactful.”
When thinking back on WWII, Bennett recalls a simpler yet stressful way of life, one that involved rationing, being resourceful, doing without and worrying for loved ones serving overseas. There were shortages of everything, and people did not travel much due to the limited availability of gasoline. Through all of this, Bennett learned to appreciate the small things and opines that today’s generations do not seem to feel the same way.
“People have so much now, and we take many things for granted,” said Bennett. “We aren’t thankful for the little things like we used to be, and it takes too much to make us happy now. During WWII we learned to get along without things we never dreamed of giving up, like our nylons! Though it was a trying time, it was also a happy time in my life as I met my husband, Lt. Robert Bennett, and we had our first child. That period of time was my heyday. I attended the Columbus School of Fine Arts in Ohio and studied watercolor with Alice Schille. I graduated from the University of Idaho with a B.A. in art and architecture and started working as a fashion artist for Mode Ltd. in Boise. I was living in Boise at the time and the Air Force had a large presence. I met my husband at Gowen Field and we were married on July 4, 1943. He flew 35 missions in a B-17 over Germany during the war, and was based in Molesworth, England. He missed the birth of our firstborn child, but he was able to return half a year later to begin his role as a father. After the war, we relocated to Boise where I began working as a fashion artist for Blocks Department Store. Later, we moved to Pocatello, Idaho where we raised their three children. I continued to explore my love of fine art and studied with Don Ricks, a Rexburg, Idaho artist who specialized in oil painting.”
While Bennett’s husband served in the armed forces, she never imagined her granddaughter would one day serve in the Army. She notes that women’s roles began to change in during WWII when many of them went off to work, first as riveters and then later in other positions. She thinks it is fantastic that women can do anything now, recalling the feelings of excitement and liberation women felt when they began working during and after the war.
“I think it is good for young couples to explore their careers and personal interests before beginning their families,” said Bennett. “This gives them time to enjoy together, though I am sure their parents grow impatient waiting for grandchildren. The best part of my life was the time spent raising my family. I would encourage everyone to enjoy life with the ones they love, appreciate the people they meet from all walks of life, keep active, try new things and make the most of their talents. For me, my talent is watercolor painting, something I still do to this day. For enjoyment, I like to paint still life and people. It is a creative outlet that I find relaxing. I believe some of my traits were passed down to my grandchildren, as they are very artistic as well.”
In addition to painting, Bennett said she also enjoys playing bridge, collecting antiques and going for walks. Something she has never done but would like to try is taking a ride on the Orient Express. She loves that transportation is easier and faster now, but she likes the idea of traveling on a classic train.
“Life is what you make of it, and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches,” said Bennett. “Try not to let the small things make you mad and just enjoy the simple things you are blessed with each day. Life happens, but that does not mean you should walk out on someone or just throw in the towel. It’s a work in progress, and we must dedicate ourselves to making it as successful and meaningful as we can.”