- Published: July 30, 2009
Petronella Cornelia Maria Benton, a former resident of Yellow Springs, died after a short illness at her home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on July 19. She was 68.
She was born on June 23, 1941, in Grasines, Anna Paulowna, Netherlands. She immigrated to Canada in 1948, and became a United States citizen in 1965 in Ohio. She graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in education, and started her teaching career in North Olmstead, Ohio. She moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1968 where she met her husband, Robert Benton, and they married in 1969. She taught elementary education in Broward County schools, eventually becoming a librarian for the school system. She retired in 1992.
She devoted much of her life to wildlife and nature conservation, with a special emphasis on butterfly species native to Florida and to preserving their natural environment. She was a gifted amateur botanist and a dedicated member of the Fort Lauderdale Garden Club, and helped start and promote the club’s butterfly education program for the Broward County schools. She was also a member of the Key West and Wakulla County Garden Clubs.
She was an enthusiastic traveler, and for many years spent her summers in Steamboat Springs, Colo. She and her husband, Bob, spent many years together hiking and camping all across the United States, and a full year and summer sailing the Bahamas by themselves. From her home in the Florida Keys, she began to study ceramic art at Key West Community College. She also studied in Yellow Springs, eventually becoming an accomplished potter and artist.
She was a rare woman, generous and giving, who embraced life and people with a unique warmth and gentleness.
Petronella is survived by her loving husband, Robert T. Benton; her mother, Pauline Vandenberg; her three sisters, Pauline Hollmann, Johann Reckers and Jayne Rembielak; her three brothers, John Vandenberg, Jack Vandenberg and Tony Vandenberg; and many nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Petronella’s life will be held for family and friends in Yellow Springs later this summer.