Obituary: Beverly Jean Paschke Benjamin
Beloved great-grandmother, teacher, preschool founder, lifelong learner
Beverly Jean Paschke was born to Ola Laurin Paschke in Blue Earth, Minnesota on Nov. 6, 1928, on Election Day and narrowly escaping being named Herberta Hooverina.
She and her younger sister Janis lived in Iowa with her parents until her father, Frank Paschke, who intensely disliked farming, moved them to California. Holding many different jobs during the Depression, he settled in Colton, the railroad center of the time, working as an electrician for Southern Pacific. Her two younger siblings, Ray and Marilyn, were born there.
Her littlest sister always said “Bevi” was her truest friend, providing lifelong love and care. Over the objections of her dad, Beverly went off to college, the first woman in her family to finish high school. She enjoyed regular reunions with Colton High School friends for over 50 years.
She met Karl Benjamin at the University of Redlands in 1946. They moved from their parents’ homes to Forest Falls after they were married in January of 1949; she said if they could find a log cabin to match the yellow and brown plaid dishtowels she’d just bought, she wanted to live there, even though it meant a long drive to school.
She graduated from Redlands in June 1950, a year after Karl, with baby Beth under her robe. Although Mr. Benjamin had intended to follow up with graduate work in journalism, with his new bride pursuing her fascination with drama, at the University of Colorado in Boulder, the pending family responsibilities led him to teach elementary school. Pep Boys told him he didn’t have an outgoing enough personality to work there, and the school system at the time was seeking male teachers due to the shortage after World War II.
Although he said he knew nothing about it at the time, he grew interested in painting by the requirement to teach 43 minutes of art daily to his fifth grade charges. His students’ work inspired him to use the GI Bill to go back to school (still teaching full-time) and work toward his MFA at Scripps College, which hosted Claremont Graduate School classes at the time. The family moved to a little bungalow on Ninth Street, right across from Harper Hall, which was torn down to build the current computer building.
She was so happy to move to Claremont, which seemed like such a center of art, education and culture compared to her youth in Colton. Daughter Beth went to graduate school with her dad in her stroller and spent time with him in the studios around Seal Court. Both of their other two children were born while they lived in that house, and she continued teaching in nearby Bloomington between pregnancies.
They became good friends with architect Fred McDowell, and he designed the midcentury modern home they built in 1955. They couldn’t get a GI loan for it because the design was too weird at the time for the bank to finance—not enough windows on the street side, they said—so Mr. Benjamin’s parents helped, and subsequently the elder Benjamins also built a McDowell home in Santa Barbara.
The family moved across town into the new house on Eighth Street during the hottest September on record, with the youngest, baby Bruce, six months old, Kris at two-and-a-half, and Beth starting kindergarten that fall.
As Mr. Benjamin continued to teach in Chino and paint avidly at home, his wife worked with a nursery school co-op held at the Claremont Congregational Church and then started a preschool at the new home in 1956. They built a play yard in the back, with a midcentury styled playhouse, chicken coop, swing set and slide.
Some years later, in 1963, once she’d completed her teaching credential and begun teaching kindergarten at Vista del Valle School, the back yard morphed into patio living space and Mr. Benjamin’s new painting studio.
She read Erich Fromm and Alan Watts and did yoga in the living room early in the morning, continuing to practice with her teacher Sandy Jones until the pandemic stopped her. She was particularly interested in early childhood education, earning her master’s degree in 1968 at CGU, and then her PhD there in 1980. She took courses at Pacific Oaks College, inspired by Montessori education and studying Piaget and John Dewey and the other scholars who believed play was the key to real learning for children. She taught early childhood education at Chaffey College from 1973 until her retirement in 1993, and in 1985 (until its sale some years later), founded and ran the American Nanny College to train and raise the status of early childcare workers in this country, as well as holding leadership in various educational organizations.
She read and wrote poetry throughout these years and was aware of and engaged with local and national political issues. She was proud to read almost all of the Los Angeles Times every morning until her last week of life. Their home was filled with her husband’s paintings, and the work of other local artists who were glad to trade ceramics and woodwork; she was a charming hostess at many gatherings of friends and students of both the Benjamins. Always beautifully dressed and elegantly turned out, she loved social gatherings and was a mentor to many who taught or worked with her.
An artist friend said, “While living in Claremont we spent many afternoons chatting on the patio with your folks. Your mom always made us feel welcome, greeting us with a hug and a glass of wine. Patrick was there to talk art with Karl, but for me, Beverly was the model of an independent, professional woman, and impressed on me the importance of following your own passions.”
Her daughter Kris and her husband Bob Jones provided essential family support for many years until they moved from Upland to Oregon when her older daughter Beth moved back in with her parents in 2010.
Although her husband died in 2012, she enjoyed her last years in that same Claremont home in the good company of Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow and the L.A. Dodgers, and she voted by mail for the last time (against the recall) two days before her August 22 death.
“The women of that era were born with expectations to be an ever-present mother, an always good supportive wife, (household managing and cooking featured in both those roles), thin enough and well put together enough, and then added, and increasingly expected, were the desires to achieve a satisfying personal, work and creative life as well,” her family shared.
“Beverly did all of it; may she finally rest in peace.”
She leaves her children Bruce Benjamin and wife Cynthia, Kris and Bob Jones, Beth Benjamin and Ross Focke; her sister Mel and family; grandchildren Evan Benjamin (and wife Halley), Casey Jones (and husband Mike Schwartz), Allison Jones Hunt (and husband Sam), Clover Jones, Leifin Nelson, Towhee Nelson Huxley (and husband Tim); great-grandchildren Charley and Sawyer Benjamin, Kyla and Olive Huxley, and Poppy Lark Nelson; as well as daughters-in-love Peggy Benjamin, Chloe Woodmansee and Vanessa Wehner.