SANFORD – Joan Bennett, who owned Yellowstone Park Campground for the past 40 years and devoted herself to family, died Sunday from complications with pneumonia. She was 89.
She was the loving wife of the late Arthur Bennett, her husband for 39 years. Together, the couple opened the former Sanford-Wells Campground in 1973.
Now called Yellowstone Park Campground, it features 135 camping sites off Route 109 in Sanford. The couple lived on the property and operated the campground together.
Mrs. Bennett did the bookkeeping and helped run the campground’s store. She also checked in campers and said goodbye when they left. Many campers returned year after year, said Caryll Quinones, the eldest of her three children, who now operates the campground.
Quinones said one patron has 40-year camping history at Yellowstone. A handful of others have returned to camp for more than 20 years.
Mrs. Bennett used to ride around the campground in a golf cart to check in with campers and visit friends. In recent years, she rode shotgun with her daughter.
“People would always make a big fuss when they saw her,” Quinones said. “This was more than a job to her. So many people have called me. She loved the people.”
Mrs. Bennett, known for her grace and hospitality, grew up in Edgeware, England. In her early years, she served on the fire brigade during World War II. She met her husband in St. Albans, England, after moving into a house next door to him. They were married on Feb. 13, 1943.
In 1948, the Bennetts emigrated from England to Connecticut and settled in East Haddam. He arrived first in the U.S. and began working. Six months later Mrs. Bennett, with Quinones in tow, traveled by boat to meet her husband there.
Mrs. Bennett was an accomplished musician who played the violin and oboe in an orchestra in England. In Connecticut, she taught accordion to middle and high school kids for eight years.
“She couldn’t play the accordion, but she could teach it,” her daughter said. “She loved teaching. She loved her students.”
Mrs. Bennett and her husband raised three daughters. In addition to Quinones, she is survived by Kay Parent and Barbara Gagnon, both of Sanford.
She was remembered by her daughters Wednesday as a loving and supportive mother who was always there for them.
Kay Parent, who is blind, said her mother fought for her to attend regular high school.
“In those days, you weren’t supposed to go to regular high school,” Parent said. “That was one of the best things she ever did for me. I admired the fact that she never gave up. In hard times, she got through things.”
Quinones said her mother was always there for them.
“She was a great mom,” she said. “Her family meant everything to her.”
Mrs. Bennett had a close relationship with her children and grandchildren: Robyn Mazas, of Wolcott, Conn.; Christopher Parent, of Portland; and Carrie Parent, of Lyman. She also remained close with her family in England. Quinones said she traveled there every couple of years or so. The last time she visited was in 2004.
Mrs. Bennett was a big fan of the popular British hit series ‘Downton Abbey.’ She watched the program every Sunday.
Last week, she developed pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital. On Friday, she insisted on going home. The next day, about 15 of her family members gathered for dinner. She died the day after, on Sunday.
“It’s hard not having her here anymore,” Quinones said. “I’ll miss her being here and hearing her stories. She talked about England all the time. It’s hard when you have someone with you all the time and they are just gone. It leaves a big void in your life.”
A graveside service will be held in the spring.
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: