Alma L. Benson


Alma L. (Spearwater) Benson of West Tisbury died peacefully on November 19 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital after a brief illness. She was 93 years old. She was the devoted wife of 55 years of the late Franklin W. Benson.

Alma was born on March 9, 1920 in Norwood to Carl and Alberta Spearwater. She attended Norwood Schools and graduated from Bridgewater State College with a teaching degree. The superintendent of the Martha’s Vineyard Schools came to her college to interview for teachers. He said he had an opening in West Tisbury so she jumped at the opportunity for employment, even though she had never heard of Martha’s Vineyard. She hopped on the ferry and sailed into her future. She taught grammar school in West Tisbury for a couple of years in the early 1940s. She had fond memories of her students and truly enjoyed being a teacher.

Alma met her future husband, Franklin Benson, shortly after she arrived on the Island. She had taken a room in his aunt’s house in North Tisbury and he would come to visit his aunt quite often. Soon he proposed to her and in November of 1944, they eloped and were married by the Methodist minister in New Bedford. She wore an aqua street-length dress, brown hat, and matching accessories. She finished out the school year teaching. After that she did a little substitute teaching and became a homemaker.

Her husband was a fisherman, so she helped him mend nets and paint buoys. She often referred to herself as Franklin’s “handyman.” Together they made a lot of wonderful memories. She loved living on the Vineyard and was “grateful to live in this beautiful place.” Alma enjoyed living off of the land, picking berries and eating the fish her husband caught. Eventually, she decided to go back to work. She was hired by E. C. Cottle lumber yard in Lambert’s Cove and began a 45-year career. She continued to work until the spring of 2012 when she retired at the age of 92. This was a special place for her because of the customers, her fellow employees and, especially, the Cottle family who she always referred to as her second family.

She was an active member of the Lambert’s Cove Church for many years, where she taught Sunday school. Recently she was a member of the West Tisbury Congregational Church. She was also a longtime member of the West Tisbury Grange.

Alma enjoyed watching her birds and chipmunks at the feeder. She loved cats. One of her favorite pastimes was reading historical romance novels. She would never turn down an invitation to lunch or dinner at Linda Jean’s Restaurant, where the waitresses served her well. Of course, she would need to be home in time to watch her favorite television show, Wheel of Fortune.

Besides her parents and husband, she was also predeceased by her two sisters, Shirley Harvey of West Virginia and Barbara Marden of Bellingham.

Auntie Alma is survived by her nieces and nephews, Margaret Maida, Donna Barry, Robert Anderson, Linda Carroll, Betsy and Michael Gately, Glen Medowski, Kent Medowski, Lorraine Henderson, Alberta Woodson, Carl Harvey and Cindy Marden. Grandnieces and grandnephews, Charles, Norman, Steven and Jeffrey Maida, Linda and Robert Coutinho, Ashley Medowski, Jennifer and Mark Wisniowski, and Michael Gately. Great grandnieces and great grandnephews, Zachary and Cody Coutinho, Madeline Fisher, Chelsea Maida and Cole Wisniowski. She is also survived by many loyal friends, co-workers and neighbors. Alma will be missed by all who had the honor to know her.

A graveside funeral was held on Saturday, November 23, at the Lambert’s Cove Cemetery in West Tisbury, officiated beautifully by Rev. Cathlin Baker. Donations may be made in her memory to the West Tisbury Congregational Church Memorial Fund, PO Box 3000 PMB 3111, West Tisbury, MA 02575. Arrangements were under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home.