Many of our Society’s members pay tribute to the memory of Linda Bennett, who died earlier this month. Linda was a longtime, beloved member who served more than 10 years as administrative director and decades as a friend, collaborator, and problem solver.
She was always kind, patient, and considerate
Linda was the consummate professional. Every single encounter I had with her over many years was friendly, helpful, and pleasant. She was always kind, patient, and considerate. I truly valued her as a person, and our Ethical Society branch benefitted greatly from her many contributions and warm interactions with members.
I appreciated her understanding and empathy
Linda was always friendly, kind, and made me feel welcome every time I saw her at Ethical platforms or events. We connected on a more personal level about our sons with disabilities, as well, and I appreciated her understanding and empathy. Not something easy to find in this world!
She cared deeply for all of us
Linda was an exceptionally kind, generous, loving, and interesting person. As we all know, she was also the backbone of the Ethical Culture Society. I had the good fortune to collaborate very closely with Linda on several projects. This gave me the opportunity to get to know her on a personal level. Linda’s dedication to the Society was rivaled by her caring spirit. She adored her family, and it was fun to hear her talk about the grandchildren. Linda was a person you just knew you would always be able to call on for advice or assistance. She cared deeply for all of us. I loved her and will miss her very much.
She left an indelible mark
Linda will never truly be gone because she left an indelible mark on so many aspects of our lives. We all leave ripples behind in our communities, but Linda’s giving and generous nature has left a huge wake. Her legacy will be long felt in the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County and it will be remembered with fondness and admiration.
The Wallman Family
One of the most caring humans I’ve ever met
When I think of Linda Bennett, the word “gratitude” comes to mind. I feel truly lucky to have gotten to know this amazing woman. During my years as an elementary school teacher, one of the awards I created was “The 3 C’s Award.” Recipients displayed exemplary caring, compassion, and concern. Linda embodied all of these traits…and then some. During this past year, I was inspired to connect with Linda by phone from down here in South Carolina. I loved speaking with her, discussing ideas and life in general. I consider her one of the most caring (and whip smart!) humans I’ve ever met, and I am deeply saddened by her passing. Sending love and support to her beautiful family.
Linda knew everything!
Linda was everywhere and knew everything! I remember being part of the Long Range Planning Committee that created the Program Council and Administrative Director position. Liz was our first AD but when she wanted to move on, Linda stepped in. She was a natural. Linda’s warm smile and welcoming ways were always evident on Sundays. She handled so many details and kept so many balls afloat, but was always interested in chatting with you. She adored her children and grandchildren and had a ready story to tell you, always with pride. As she handed over the reins to David, it became evident how much she did, many times in the background. She devoted many hours to Ethical. I know that she enjoyed our community, and enjoyed being deeply involved with our community. I know that I am enriched by knowing her. She is part of the fabric of our Ethical community and there will be many times we will say, “Linda would know that.” I will remember her fondly and will miss her dearly.
A receptive heart and a keen mind
“Put yourself first.”
“Make sure you set boundaries.”
“If you’re giving your all and it’s not enough, you’re giving it to the wrong people.”
These are clichés that Linda Bennett would never subscribe to and would not admire. Linda was just the opposite of these clichés. She put herself last and blew boundaries away. She had a soft, receptive heart, a keen mind for details, and an open hand, eager to help. When I was president of the Society, we worked very closely together. I learned that she had close relationships with several longtime members. Although she was in a position to be gossip central, she never used her knowledge as a confidante to pass on gossip. Instead, Linda took complaints or personal troubles as a springboard to help make the Society more accommodating, more receptive, more humane. She reached out to new members. She found ways to bring members closer. Linda asked for volunteer help in the office both to help her out with routine paperwork and to bring members into the fold. When volunteers were needed for Ethical Brew concerts, she offered herself.
However, it was not until Linda took a two-week vacation in Paris that I had full realization of all that she did. It took a few days just to prepare me to take over for her. Edit the monthly Focus newsletter, remind contributors to send in their articles, send out the weekly announcements, keep up the calendar and make sure nothing conflicted; if there was a double-booking, get back to both parties to resolve, show the space to potential renters for parties or meetings, make a key for the renter, have them sign the contract, keep in daily touch with the daycare director, call for maintenance when the toilet jammed, call the building chair when there was a leak, call the snow removal company when it snowed, the auditor to check the books, the computer guy for repairs, deposit checks, write out the payroll checks, read and respond to the snail mail, the email, listen to the voicemail, fill out reports for the AEU, produce the written programs to hand out on Sundays, run the Program Council, report to the Board and attend Board meetings. It was endless! And she did it all without calling attention to herself.
Of course Linda often spoke about her family, which she loved dearly. She was proud of her kids, Josh and Samantha, and her grandkids and attended to her son, Matthew, as often as she could.
Linda was smart, efficient, caring, unpretentious, and humble and loved the Ethical Culture Society. I started out appreciating her enormously and ended up cherishing her as a trusted friend. Love you, Linda Bennett. I will miss you greatly.
Straightforward, connecting, and very helpful
In any of our interactions over the years Linda was always straightforward, clear, connecting, and very helpful. I liked her and cared for her.
I cannot convey how much I enjoyed working with Linda
I first met Linda when Susan and I joined, 20 years ago. She was not yet the administrative director (AD) — that wouldn’t happen for about another nine years — but she was a frequent attendee at platform. I didn’t know her well because we were still feeling our way into the community and our kids, then 6 and 4, took our attention away from adult conversation.
At some point, I don’t know exactly when, I became co-chair of Family Programming with Amy Baker and somehow also became part of a committee developing a long range plan. Linda was still not the AD (in fact, the AD job grew out of the long range plan) but as she was an involved, longtime member of the community, I couldn’t help but get to know her. When she did become the AD, I guess around the year 2000, I got to know her better.
Linda took the AD job as her “retirement” job. She had worked for a human resources consultancy and wrote human resources manuals for their clients. I know they were working her a lot (she told me), and she was happy to retire. I never asked her why she took the AD job; I just assumed it was out of a desire to contribute to the Society, and I never got the sense that she was nervous about her retirement.
Ten years later, I retired from my job in information technology at Credit Suisse, but unlike Linda, I was nervous about my retirement. The prospect of “unstructured” days was a prospect I found disorienting. When I heard that Linda was ready to retire from her retirement job, I looked into it as my retirement job and was surely glad it was available.
This is all lead-up to the start of my true friendship with Linda Bennett. This half-time AD job is bigger than one might assume and she generously agreed to stick around for months to train me (we split the salary). I got two things out of it this period, one which is important but mundane, the other important but deeply meaningful. The first consisted of learning the mechanics of the job—QuickBooks, Mailchimp, stuff about the building, processes and procedures, etc.—all the dull stuff of which most jobs are made. But the second was of a different order: We became friends, real friends, not just work friends, and in some respects, even confidantes. I learned a lot about her and her family, and she learned a lot about me and my family. I cannot convey how much I enjoyed working with Linda and talking to her informally. Though I only really got to know her over the last couple of years, in that time it felt like we’d known each other much longer.
The picture I am including in my tribute was a selfie I took in the office one day for an article in Focus about Linda’s retirement as AD and my officially assuming the position. I believe we were instructed to get a picture of us together, so I decided to take a selfie. For some reason, in that photo I look like a giant. I don’t know why. In spite of that, I love that picture because it captures our relationship; we were two friends happy to be working together.
I knew Linda had cancer, and I knew in my mind that it probably would not end well, but the suddenness of her passing was a surprise. Better for her that her decline was quick, to be sure, but it makes it all the harder on those who knew and loved her. I shall miss her.
Everybody knew her and liked her
I was always fond of Linda, and when she became administrative director our friendship blossomed. I saw her regularly when I came to the building to do the flower plantings, the social affairs events, expense reimbursement reports, or whatever. She was always helpful, good-natured, kind, and reliable. In spite of her own busy schedule, she would volunteer to help me. She was so capable. I enjoyed my chats with her in the office in the mornings when I came in for whatever business I had.
I remember her smiley face at our annual holiday parties and our Skills Auction parties. She was the center of attention. Everybody knew her and liked her. She enjoyed Persian food and was always curious to try unfamiliar foods. She loved the baklava.
I remember one particular morning. I had come in to let in the tuner and to test the piano. I went upstairs to the office to settle the 60th anniversary expense report. I was feeling sick and was teary. I had just had my second chemotherapy treatment. I will never forget the loving comfort she gave me and the soothing, hopeful words she said.
I remember last month on August 7 I had a luncheon and invited Linda. She was getting over some medical procedures and was not feeling great. She said she would come if she felt better. I promised her I would make her comfortable if she was able to come. She did come, and appeared well and even kept wanting to help, so much so that I had to shoo her out of the kitchen. She was happy and in good spirits. Although I am very sad, that is what I want to remember: her happy face and can-do spirit. I will miss her so much.
She served as consultant, proofreader, and magnificent friend
Like many members of our Society, I was the beneficiary, innumerable times, of Linda’s patience, generosity, and smarts. Five years ago, she trained me on the many details of producing the Focus newsletter—one thing she could finally delegate from her overflowing administrative director to-do list, but she continued to serve as consultant, proofreader, and magnificent friend. With her institutional knowledge of our Society, her editorial background, and her overall intelligence, she improved the newsletter every single month. She would call with her corrections, rather than email them, so we could have a catch-up chat. In the 26 years I have known Linda, she never said “no,” never said “I don’t have time,” never used up her store of compassion and love. I have deep sympathy for her family and abiding gratitude for my time with Linda.
It’s her joy that stays with me
I served with Linda for years on the Board, the Program Council, long-range planning and, more recently, on the Membership Committee. So I know as well as anyone how seriously she took her commitment to our Society. Maybe that’s why my favorite memory is of Linda playing Boggle at our Skills Auction event. It’s her joy in the playing, in the camaraderie and, yes, in the ice cream sundaes that stays with me.
One of the most selfless people I’ve known
Linda’s star shone brightest when she was helping someone, which was almost always. Linda was one of the most selfless people I’ve known and seemed always to be focused on how she could solve a problem, get you the information you needed, proofread a document, locate a list, envelopes, stamps, whatever was necessary. She and I interacted most during Skills Auction planning and execution, where she was absolutely essential for the smooth execution of that fundraiser. I will so miss working with her and am a little nervous about doing one again without her.
She was the best
“I will always remember Linda for her kindness, competence and “can do” attitude. Spent countless hours together on various EC activities. She was the best.
A very dear friend
Linda was a very dear friend. I enjoyed the many years I helped her in the office and the interesting conversations we shared. Our trips to the Shakespeare Theater in Madison (five of us) were a delight, and the good dinner afterwards will always be a wonderful memory. Miss her.