I have left it to others to tell you about Laura Dupee Benkard.

She loved gardening. She became an international  judge of horticulture. She taught us to have a love for animals and nature, she raised dogs and birds, she cared for wild animals and returned  them to their habitat.  But above all else she devoted her life to husband and children. She was raised in New England and remained a true New Englander until the day she died. She taught us about the importance of heritage that she learned from my Grandparents and her wish for her children to pass the New England culture and traditions to the next generation. I can hear her saying,

 " Do not compromise your beliefs, because that is who you are"






North Suffolk Garden Club

LAURA DUPEE BENKARD inspired all who knew her. As President of the North Suffolk Garden Club, she encouraged novice and expert to achieve and to learn, always by example.

As National Chairman of the Garden Club of America Flower Show Committee, Mrs. Benkard's standards of excellence extended to all members. She served the Garden Club of America as Vice-President and Director. Donation of the wallpaper in the headquarters reception room was another indication of her interest and concern.

Mr. and Mrs. Benkard gave tirelessly of their time and talents to the Village of Head-of-the-Harbor and to the preservation of the fragile ecosystem that is Stony Brook Harbor. Their homes and gardens, both city and country, were haven and delight. Her country neighbors well remember that Mrs. Benkard organized a tour of St. James and Stony Brook, selecting unusual horticultural specimens and exceptional gardens for her city neighbors and fellow members of the new York Botanical Garden.

Laura Benkard's guidance in her own club, in Zone and National affairs was an inspiration. We shall miss her


A Talk given by Laura Dupee Benkard at the Colony Club between 1963-5

This was copied exactly as she wrote it on a yellow legal pad. My father usually proof read the speeches that she would give, take it to his office and have it typed out. This time obviously he did not.( JBJ)

A little over 30 years ago, I came to New York to spend two months. I have been here ever since

Aside from my privite zoo, I have two children, 3 grandchildren, a standard poodle, a basset hound and a husband who is the cause of it all.

A couple of years after we were married our first child was about to be born. Vogue Magazine came out with a special edition entirely devoted to what the new mother might hope to receive in the way of presents for the blessed event.

I can remember it now! Beautiful models draped in velvet and lace and literally covered with bracelets, necklaces, pins and earrings made of diamonds, rubies, saphires and emeralds. My present was there waiting for me the day I returned from the hospital. It was a Horned TOAD.

My husband was delighted with his surprise for me, and I somehow must have convinced him that I was also delighted.

I don't know how many of you have ever seen a horned toad. They eat mealy worms. —-—— So not only do you have to care for the toad — but raise and care for his worms as well. The toad sits in one spot all day and blinks at you.

In the evening they bury themselves under the sand that you have provided and of course must be kept clean. Somehow or rather they to make you feel so dreadfully sorry for them that you wish that they would die. They usually do— and mine did at last.

I do not recommend them as pets for any age group. They should be left in the desert where they belong!

I next acquired a guinea pig and an endless succession of hamsters all of which seemed to live forever unless I found homes for them.

My collection of birds was started intentionally and by me. I have cared for dozens of talking birds but have never wanted to own one. I should get very tired of hearing my own voice repeating some phrase over and over again all day long. "Pretty bird" — "Hello"—"Bye now"

The first purchase was a Bull-Bull or Persian nightingale which comes from the Hymalian mountains. They are about the size of a thin robin— are emerald green with an orange head with a blue throat and are extremely intellegent, friendly and can be taught most any kind of trick.

They are not a talking bird but a great mimic of other sounds. When we first acquired this bird we had a very fancy persian name ready for him, but his efforts to copy the childrens canery, and obvious range when he failed to hit a high note quickly changed his name to Donald. ( after Mr Disneys duck )

We lived on the third floor and in no time at all he had the doormans whistle down cold.

They make excellent pets and have only two drawbacks. First—- Their voice is very loud indeed and guaranteed to drown out any concentration.

Second — They are meat eating birds and therefore require a babysitter to change their food every day you should be away from home. By now the children were off to boarding school and the apartment was much too quiet even with Donald and the canery

trying their best.

I started collecting finches This to my mind is the ideal apartment bird.

They cost from a dollar or two up to twenty-five dollars depending on the species. Its a little like adding to a charm bracelet. One good sized fleight cage. { Mine about 4' high 3' wide and 18" deep} can easily

take 6 pairs of birds.

And you need no babysitter, as they are seed eaters Their colors are fantastic and their song is quiet and sweet like a minature canary —

if you choose the right varitities

I have those that come from South America—- North Africa— and Australia. I have them in decorative cages but always have a spare cage or two because they

like people, they occasionally take a dislike to another bird and start picking on him or

her. Just remove this bird for a month or so and the chances are that when you put it

back all will be peace again. Always do this in the evening - before dark. You will soon notice that the top or boss bird in any cage always sits on the top


Watch him carefully. He can be the trouble maker. The timid one will spend too much time on the floor of the cage. this is known as

the pecking order. I always cover three sides of my cages with some sort of transparent material such

as polyethelon or saran wrap. More birds are lost through exposure to draft than any other trouble I have known.

Incidently, never put a new bird into a cage full until you have watched him for a

week or two in your extra cage. I don't care where you bought him. They can all have a

disease that can spread to your entire collection. Of all the finches the rarest and the most beautiful and often the ones with the most

personality are the Lady Gould and Gouldian finches. They have to been seen to believed.

They look rather like a picture some child would do with a new paint box. I was delighted with these little birds and at vast expense I bought myself two pair. I put 4 of them into my extra cage with nest boxes and piles of dried grass. I watched over them with great pride.

Mentally thinking the dollars I would receive from their valuable offspring. I soon realized however that something was very wrong indeed. The two magnificant males spent the day perched side by side on the top most perch

singing their hearts out to each other while their poor wives moped in a corner below. I tried everything I knew but it became more and more obvious that I had bought

myself a couple of pairs of very expensive pansie finches. The next member of my bird collection was given to me by my daughter. It is called a Short billed Toucan. Why I shall never know. It has a bill about 8 inches long and is about the size of a crow. His name is Tommy and his so-called song is similar to a giagentic cricket

broadcasting over a load speaker. He is also a meateater and not only requires a babysitter but an entire Department of

Sanitation. He resides in a flight cage specially constructed.

He is also more like a dog and needs constant attention and petting. I remember one Sunday my husband had to call an expensive client from the apartment.

As soon as the conversation was well under way - the entire collection of birds let go - in full voice.

The client paused a moment and said, " Good Heavens Mr Benkard, are you calling from the Bronx Zoo."

The only experience with wild birds that I shall mention was a Flicker that was found by the daughter of Mrs Russell Drowne. A Gold Winged Woodpecker

The bird was very young and very slightly injured. The Drownes lived in the country - ( cottage on our place ) house next to ours. The bird was raised by them and was never kept in a cage One day it took off to the tree tops but the next morning came back to be fed. It came to know me as well as the Drownes and even knew my car. We could call for him from what seemed miles away or he would be there waiting for our arrival, and descend like a jet plane - landing on your head or shoulder.

This was all very good fun except for the two nights a week that Mrs Drowne insisted on spending in New York City.

Promptly at 5 A.M. on those mornings, he would be outside my bedroom window— shrieking his head off to be fed breakfast.

It was obvious that I had to get up or look for a new husband. The noise was shattering.

When the fall migration went through in the fall— he joined his friends and went south as a well adjusted flicka should.

One final word on birds, never board them at a pet shop if you can help it. I had to for the first time last fall and nearly lost the whole lot. They get just as upset at a change as a dog will. Find a friend or hire a sitter. It won't cost you any more and you will have your

birds. Any animal reacts badly to change to a change in routine in change and enviroment.

Now I come to the event that has colored my life for so many years. One day my husband called me from the office to say that he was comming home

for lunch.

This was startling enough but he said he was bringing home an allegator. I must have made some hysterical noises because he said, " Just calm down, its a

baby allegator, go to the pet shop and get a tank." I did and I can remember so well the sales lady said, " Cheer up Madam, they

always die."

This one lived for 22 years and grew to be over 3 feet long. As he grew we had to have larger and larger tanks. He had been sent to my husband as a present— but of course when it came to

feeding and cleaning— it was my allegator. Just in case you are intrested in owning an allegator, I must tell you as soon as they arrive, they go on a hunger strike. If you don't get them to eat, they will die or maybe your husband will be upset. Since I have been in this business for now over 30 years, I have been given every

sick allegator and caymen from a radius of over 100 miles — to nurse back to health. The secret is heat.

The temperature of the water must be kept at an even 75 degrees for an allegator and 80 degrees for Caymans.. Their diet is raw fish cut into pieces 1/2 the size of their heads.

I remember one cold evening in January. It was so cold outside that I had not even opened the bedroom window. When I turned off the light. I heard the unmistakablely hum of swarm (mosquitos) The room was full of them! There could only be one explaination. The allegator needed cleaning at once!

The allegator was called Albert and after much trouble I got him to eat The first summer in the country and in my ignorance- I built a pen outside of 3 feet chicken wire and put a I foot allegator in it.

One morning as usual I went to feed him and to my horror there was no allegator. I could see a small trail in the earth where he had obviously climbed over the wire and taken off into a field.

Having a healthy respect for the bite of even a I foot allegator ( it is very infectious due to the fish they eat) . I put on rubber boots and started beating the field with a broom. After 1/2 an hour of this, I heard him hiss and was able to grab him from behind the head.

He was safe in his glass tank before my husbands return from town ( our marriage was saved )

I never again put an allegator of any size outdoors.

Some years later . I was doing my marketing at Gristedes when the mananger rushed up to me and said, " Your home has called and the 'fish is loose in the apartment". By then Albert was some 3 feet in length and rather formidable to be loose in the

apartment. I raced home to find the front doorman standing Clyde Beatty with a chair in his

hand fending off Albert who was just as terrified as the doorman. Maids and children were hermetically sealed in the kitchen. When Albert was safe in his tank, he knew me well. but this was quite a different

story. Allegators are as fast as lightning, can turn on a dime and can snap at anything that

comes near them. He_was by then much to strong for me to be able to pick up and he was much too

frightened. Not only could he hurt me but he could break his back which they can do quite

easily. A fishing net solved the problem, he was returned to his tank and a larger and

stronger tank was ordered at vast expense. One day the painters came to redecorate. They took one look at Albert and beat it. I had to hire a whole new crew. About a year after we had purchased the new Allegator Biltmore, we had an oil

strike— due to a strike

I purchased an electral unit to put into the tank to keep the water warm. Albert was not used to it and bit into the wire and electrucated himself. I was sincerely upset and my husband even more so. After all he had been with us for more than 22 years. After all that time, you can get even sort of fond of an allegator. I called Dr Fairfield Osburn (head of the Bronx Zoo) The conversation went

something like this, " Oh my dear, how dreadful, I know just how you must feel, you have my deepest sympathy, come right up to the zoo and we will see what we can arrange"

For a sizable contribution to the zoo we came home with Albert II— about 6 inches long.

Of course he started off with the usual hunger strike, but by now this was old hat and he soon got over it.

I have brought him up with a heating unit always in the tank. With this result that in 9 years, he is way bigger than the first one grew in 22 years. After I had had him but a few months, I called Dr Oliver, who was then curator of reptiles and told him how wild he was.

He said, " Pick him up every day— turn him on his back and scratch his stomach for 20 minutes" " This I said was too much. It is above and beyond the call of duty as a good wife." " I won't do it"

And I have not done it, he knows me I clean him every week and he behaves quite nicely if I am careful

He eats out of my hand and I keep my hand out of his reach He is huge.

He stands a foot high and is well over 4 feet long and must weigh 25-30 pounds He barks like a dog and hisses like a snake. He is in surpurb condition

The entire Zoo is kept in out rather large dining room at 1000 Park Ave I do hope you will all come for lunch some day.




with her 1st great grandchild



A Memorial

 Laura Dupee Benkard November 28, 1909 - November 28, 1988

 In the Kaufman-Ferber burlesque of the Barrymores, The Royal Family, there is a scene at, believe, the end of the second act; the stage, inside a New York townhouse, is packed with almost the whole cast in a gaggle of confusion. lust when the chaos can't get worse, the dashing Tony--last seen in Act One--arrives back from a circumnavigation complete with a huge dog, an ape, an aviary on his back, snakes on his arms and an alligator on a leash. The house is convulsed and the curtain falls, leaving the audience to puzzle through the second intermission as to how it can all come out right. Art follows life, A friend of the Benkard family cannot see this scene without what Yogi Berra calls 'deja vu all over again'. This was lifted from 1000 Park Avenue, Apartment 2B; home to the Benkards and host to several score of transients as their home away from home; Laura, their mother away from mother: warm and cozy digs presided over by the unflappable Mrs. B. The personae of this opera buffo included Benny, the remarkably sedentary world-weary raconteur, piano player, music lover, and devotee of Spengler who saw in us all too vivid proof of the Decline of the West. Benny liked to monopolize the young women we brought around, particularly if they would play duets with him, talk of history and of literature, especially Rabelais, and be too polite to slip away. Then there were the peers of the parents, such worthies as Captain Van Liew, the dashing Rickenbacker-style hero of peace and war whose major contribution to our nation's defense was to get Jim into the Marines where he overnight went from Lord Peter Wimsey to Rambo. There was a Mr. Griffin--who always seemed to be in a cast and who contributed a sign in the pantry: 'Work is the curse of the drinking class' --and others nowfaded from specfic memories. Joan always had a crew in from Oldfields, lovely young, women who would cuddle us harmless eighth graders, stirring in us nascent strange yearnings that became lifelong afflictions. I still can picture Taffy Woods, avatar of spring loveliness. Jim's friends were shameless in their acceptance of hospitality. I think we called first-usually; some would just arrive. Many of us, Nat, Steve, Dooney, myself were from out of town. Others, New Yorkers, made the Benkards their base, Tucky, Tom, Fre ddy were some of these--despite perfectly good homes of their own. We were never turned away, never without a bed somewhere No one to my knowledge was ever up before Laura. She would be there in the kitchen dispensing coffee, breakfast and inquiring with genuine curiosity and not the slightest trace of parental judgmentalness as to how things were going. The interest was real; the conversation the best therapy we ever had and, at least in those days, ever needed. But of all the guests one was always extra social. We all knew our place; in Laura's vast extended family, Kelley Anderson reigned supreme--a paragon, her own jewel--the Queen's favorite. This perfectly ordinary mortal was, in Laura's eyes, Apollo, Achilles, George Washington, Joe DiMaggio. Then there were the animals; the zoo. Laura and Benny were given an alligator as a wedding present from a Grande dame in Boston. Rather than risking disapproval from this patroness by consigning the beast to live with his pale white this was less than tragic but no, within a couple of months, he was missed and replaced by two new alligators. Fourteen birds, including a grape-throwing Toucan, were not enough. Two poodles, Bruno and Junior, later Henry, the basset, were not enough. Two children with myriad friends were not enough. Penny arid the adult satellites were not enough. Two alligators rounded things out nicely. It would have been fine to think that all these relationships, human, bestial and aviary, were symbolic in nature. It is hard, though, to think what our contribution was. Perhaps it was in Laura's perpetual good cheer and profound happiness that we, with out thinking and certainly without effort somehow righted the scales. On her fiftieth birthday Laura was given a cocktail shaker ~ bearing the dates 1909.-1959-2009. It would have been nice far her to have gone on and on, to be' free of illness, while shepherding us into our own old age. Perhaps she ran out of things to ca re for (although I bumped into her in Central Park ' with four or five small grandchildren ~ all in easy control) The world is full of great unbiographied lives. Laura's memory lives while we live, an extension to a grand existence. But a shorter skein than the less d deserving fame of those who flash in more public lives of far less account. The Curtain has com e down; It was a great comedy and the tears in our eyes are from laughter, mostly.

Weld Henshaw