2005-07-20 / Obituaries

Joan Ellett Benjamin

Joan Benjamin died on Saturday, July 16, 2005 while swimming in the pool at her home in Garrison, N.Y.

Born Joan Braxton Ellett on June 23, 1918, an only child to the architect Thomas Harlan Ellett and Jane Bigelow Ellett, Joan attended the Chapin and Mediera Schools in New York and Bennington College in Vermont.

It was clear from an early age that Joan had considerable artistic talent which was nurtured by her parents who were both accomplished painters. After college, Joan studied drawing and painting at the Art Students League in New York. But it was not until the late 1950s when she discovered her real passion for sculpture. Carving in marble and alabaster as well as walnut, angelique and purple heart, she has created numerous pieces both abstract and representational.

In 1940, the strikingly beautiful Joan Ellett married W. Hoffman "Hoff" Benjamin of Garrison. Joan assisted the war effort with her design skills in lofting aircraft wing sections.

By 1947, Joan was the mother of three. In the 1950s her artistic talents turned to the Highlands Drama Workshop theater productions. She was also a founding member of the Garrison Art Center.

Another burst of creative energy transformed her home into a thoughtfully orchestrated arrangement of gardens, terraces and interior grace. A frequent entertainer, Joan brought to the table sophistication and warmth along with culinary expertise.

In the 1960s Joan again focused on her sculpture and created a significant body of work. At the same time, she embarked on another "extreme makeover" of the old Benjamin homestead, "Hayfields," creating another gem of architecture and landscape design.

Joan and her husband Hoff, who predeceased her in 1997, were great travelers and eager for adventure. They made several trips to the Triton Club in Canada where days of canoeing and portaging with Indian guides would take them deep into a wilderness.

Always looking for new territory, Joan would organize trips to Europe, Russia, Egypt, Cuba, Japan and Africa.

Joan’s life is a celebration of intellect and beauty, humor, confidence, devotion and uninhibited artistic expression.

Joan is survived by her three children, Beverly Goodwin of New York City, John Benjamin of Garrison, New York and Nathaniel Benjamin of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts.

She also leaves six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 11 am Saturday, July 23, at St. Phillips Church in Garrison, N.Y.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be given in her name to the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Garrison, N.Y. 10524.

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