Community mourns Ruth Travers Bennett, 83

Superintendent Dr. John Fredericksen shares a laugh with state Sen. Jim Mathias, center, as the pair greets Ruth Bennett, left, daughter of the late James M. Bennett, and Bennett family member Priscilla Timken, at the rededication ceremonies held last year for the new middle school.

Superintendent Dr. John Fredericksen shares a laugh with state Sen. Jim Mathias, center, as the pair greets Ruth Bennett, left, daughter of the late James M. Bennett, and Bennett family member Priscilla Timken, at the rededication ceremonies held last year for the new middle school.

Ruth Travers Bennett, the daughter of one of the county’s earliest superintendents of schools, is being remembered as a woman who held friends and family close to her heart.

“(They) were everything to Ruth and she leaves behind a dear and close group of friends,” the 83-year-old Salisbury native’s family wrote in her obituary. She died Aug. 22. The funeral was Saturday.

Bennett was a lifelong educator like her father, Superintendent James M. Bennett, who became a principal in Wicomico County in 1910 and was promoted to superintendent in 1917.

Known for being ahead of his time in education, Bennett transformed one-room school houses in the county to school systems and strongly supported free and universal education during his career. He retired in 1957.

James M. Bennett high school and middle school are named for him.

For the past 30 years, Ruth Bennett lived in Oak Hill Townhomes, where she enjoyed spending time at the pool with friends. She also liked to watch vessels being built at Chesapeake Shipbuilding.

Her career began at Salisbury State Teachers College Campus School. Among her students was Susan Purnell, now owner of Kuhn’s Jewelers, who was in Bennett’s kindergarten and second grade classes in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

“The whole school made you feel really special. I can say, by far, that we were more prepared for junior high than anybody else in the county. It was like having a private school education in a public school,” Purnell said in an SU news release.

After the college campus school closed, Bennett taught at Pemberton and Pinehurst elementary schools.

“She grew up in an education household as the daughter of Margaret Travers Bennett and James M. Bennett. (She was) a lifelong member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the Wicomico County Retired Teachers Association and Westside Historical Society, she spent her adult life in Wicomico County,” the obituary states.

A graduate of the University of Maryland in College Park, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, she was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority.

Affectionately known as Little Ruth, Bennett “loved her students and 30 years of teaching as a kindergarten and second-grade teacher,” her family wrote in the obituary.

She is survived by her cousins, Heidi Peregoy Thompson, Perry Peregoy, Priscilla Peregoy Timken, Bob Peregoy, and their families.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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