Campaign Westminster: Giving for Living
Jill Dueben told of the deep bond between her and Harold Bennett, a resident of Westminster Village in Allentown for the last three years of his life.
“He was my favorite uncle, forever. I grew up in Connecticut, but my father was raised in Bethlehem. His siblings, my Uncle Harold and Aunt Caroline lived in Bethlehem with my grandparents in the family home. Spending summers in Bethlehem with Uncle Harold, Aunt Caroline, and my grandparents is what I remember.”
Harold spent his career at Bethlehem Steel, as had his father before him. “In the mill depot of ‘the Steel,’” Jill recalled, he worked as a clerk from the 1950’s to his retirement in 1982. He was a private, quiet, unassuming man,” who loved to read, hike, and visit with me.
Harold was an artist who had taken drawing and painting lessons for years. He gave away many of his pieces before moving to Westminster Village -- including a wonderful charcoal rendering of the historic Bethlehem Steel plant, given to Jill. Impressed with the piece, she had it professionally matted and framed – and so pleased was Harold that they agreed to give it to Westminster Village. In May 2005, it became the first illustration to hang in what was to become the Westminster Village Art Gallery, a changing exhibit of local artists.
Harold “knew it was the right decision. It became his home and he made wonderful friends there,” said Jill. “I could never call him at night, because he was always out having coffee with them. They meant so much to him as did the care he received in his apartment. I was always impressed. The staff treated Harold and everyone else there graciously – and they treated me that way, too. They were so friendly and caring; it made us feel very good that he was there.”
Just two months before he died, Harold changed his will to include Westminster Village among his beneficiaries. Jill explained, “He wanted to remember those who took care of him and who meant a lot to him. He wanted to leave money to Westminster Village as well as his church.”
Then came Campaign Westminster: Giving for Living, the major capital project to renovate the Health Center, and the June 8 groundbreaking event that Jill and her husband, John drove from Connecticut through the pouring rain to attend. “When he died, my life of going back and forth to Bethlehem ended. Coming to the ground-breaking ceremony was a wonderful opportunity to return.” It also gave Jill and John the chance to review the naming opportunities that the campaign offered. “We laughed when we learned the naming opportunity for a gift at that level could be either an activity or living room in the new Health Center. We agreed Harold was a living room kind of guy. He liked to sit and chat – that’s just who he was. Harold would probably have been too modest to choose it for himself but to us, it seemed like a very nice tribute to him.”
Distributing Harold’s possessions was another extension of that generosity. Jill and John made sure his low vision-reading machine was given to the Adult Day Program, where it had been on the “wish list” for years. And, at Harold’s memorial service at Westminster Village, Jill and John placed his works of art around the room for his friends to view. To Jill and John Dueben, we salute a generous spirit, one that will be celebrated in the tribute to Harold Bennett in the new Health Center living room that will bear his name.