BRUNSWICK and HARMONY – Kathleen Sinclair Bennie, died at her Brunswick home on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, at the age of 81. She had been in declining health following a diagnosis of cancer in April 2013.
Kathleen or “Kate,” as she was known to friends and family in the United States, was born on April 17, 1932, in Glasgow, Scotland. She was the only child of Mary Rutherford Kemp Symington and Alexander Galbraith Currie of Glasgow. Educated at Glasgow’s Netherlee School and Queen’s Park Secondary School, she achieved a degree in chemistry at the Royal Technical College under the aegis of Glasgow University by taking evening classes and working in a research laboratory during the day.
Kathleen began her career in the Glasgow area as an industrial chemist, first at Rolls Royce and then at IBM. In 1957 she immigrated to Toronto, Canada, to be near her college classmate Samuel Campbell Bennie, of Paisley, Scotland, who was based in Toronto while working as an electrical engineer for Federal Electric Company Arctic Services in Frobisher Bay. The couple was married at the Toronto City Hall on April 11, 1958.
Kathleen and her husband immigrated to the United States later in 1958, settling for a time in Ridgewood, N.J. Their first child, Fiona MacPherson Bennie, was born in April 1961, followed by Alison MacDonald Bennie in July 1962, and Ian MacDiarmid Bennie in August 1963. The couple returned to Scotland with their children for several months in 1965, and then in 1966, the Bennie family moved to Central Valley, N.Y. A year later, while still living in New York, they purchased a nineteenth century farmhouse in Harmony.
In 1968 Campbell Bennie’s career took the family to Anchorage, Alaska, when he was named to a leadership position with the Distant Early Warning Line, DEWLine, project, an integrated chain of radar and communication systems designed during the Cold War to warn of an attack by the Soviet Union over the Arctic. Four years later, the family returned to “the lower 48,” moving into the home in Harmony, that they had purchased in 1967. As her husband’s career took him across the globe in support of U.S. strategic interests, Kathleen and her three children settled into life on the family’s farm where they raised and cared for animals, swam and skated at their man-made pond, and came to love the people, lifestyle, and values of rural Maine.
In the mid-1970s, Kathleen embarked on what would become a long and successful career as an educator in Maine, initially in Harmony, then in Dexter, and ultimately at the Harmony Elementary Schoolfirst as a teacher, then as principal, and eventually as superintendent. To do so, she went back to college in her 40s, earning a bachelor of science degree in education at the University of Maine in 1975 and a master’s degree in educationalso at Mainein 1984.
After retiring as a school superintendent in 2000, Kathleen split her time between her home in Harmony and the homes of her children, where she regularly assisted with the care of grandchildren and family pets. In 2006 she moved to Brunswick while still maintaining her home in Harmony. She became a regular at the local farmer’s market and frequently enjoyed performances and exhibitions at Bowdoin College and at other cultural venues in midcoast Maine and Boston.
She was a quintessential volunteer throughout her life, beginning at the age of eight when she served tea and pastries at the Armed Forces Canteen in Glasgow and knitted socks for British soldiers during World War II. She later volunteered at the League for Crippled Children; the YMCA; the Anchorage Museum; Head Start; local libraries; and other charities and political organizations. Kathleen also served as the “room mother” in every one of the schools attended by her children.
Kathleen was a voracious reader and a devotee of classical music. She became a U.S. citizen in 1980 but remained deeply proud of her Scottish heritage and, later in life, she made annual trips back to the city and country of her birth to visit lifelong friends, with whom she maintained regular and devoted correspondence. She will be remembered by those who knew her as a private, intensely practical, and highly principled person who lived her life with a spirited sense of humor, a profound love and pride for her children and grandchildren, and with a feisty determination and strength of character that guided her through the final chapter of her life with dignity and grace.
Kathleen was predeceased by her husband of nearly 32 years on March 29, 1990. She is survived by her children, Fiona M. Bennie of Watertown, Mass., Alison M. Bennie of Topsham, and Ian M. Bennie of Princeton, Mass.; and eight grandchildren, Maggie Dodson, Jack Dodson, Graham Bennie, Jeremy Bennie, Campbell Bennie Underwood, Colin Bennie, Alistair Bennie Underwood, and Tristan Bennie Underwood. She will be missed and remembered by her family members and many friends in the United States and Scotland, including her lifelong friend, Robert Gillies of Glasgow, Scotland; her daughter-in-law, Lisa Bennie; her two sons-in-law, Christopher Underwood and Scott Hood; and her two stepgrandchildren, Charlie and Katie Hood.
A remembrance celebration in Kathleen Bennie’s honor will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at Howell House, Bowdoin College, 228 Maine Street, Brunswick. Memorial contributions in Kathleen’s memory may be made to benefit the Harmony Elementary School Library Fund, Harmony Elementary School, P.O. Box 100, Harmony, ME 04942, attention Noelle Loupin. For those unable to attend, condolences to the family may be posted at www.brackettfuneralhome.com.