Centenarian, Teacher Extraordinaire, Boston Post Cane Recipient: Merrimack New Hampshire’s Madeline Irene (Nash) Bennett (1914-2014)

Madeline (Nash) Bennett. Photograph courtesy of her daughter Beverly Haseltine, and used here with her permission.

Madeline Irene “Nan” (Nash) Bennett. Photograph courtesy of her daughter Beverly Haseltine, and used here with her permission.

New Hampshire’s beloved poet, Robert Frost, once said: “There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.” Madeline (Nash) Bennett was the latter kind of teacher–who not only offered a little prod, but provided wings to her students.**

She was born Madeline Irene Nash in 1914, in Nashua New Hampshire, to Dennis & Bertha (Chase) Nash. Her father was a conductor on the street cars that were then the favorite form of local mass transportation. She attended the local schools, graduating from Nashua High School, followed by a 3-year program for elementary school teachers at Keene Normal School in 1933. [Madeline’s daughter, Beverly, would follow in her mother’s footsteps, graduating from Keene State College class of 1966, and also following the profession of educator.]

Madeline Irene Nash College Grad 1933 watermarkedIn 1934 Madeline began the long journey of her teaching profession, in Hudson. The following year she was teaching in a one-room school house (Rural School House No. 7 on Joppa Road Merrimack) that held grades one through eight. She taught in East Weare, Hollis and Brookline, before returning to Merrimack to teach. For many years she was the third grade teacher, (McGaw Elementary, etc.) in addition to serving as substitute teacher in other grades.

In 1974 Madeline retired from school teaching after 40 years in the profession, 34 of which was in Merrimack, New Hampshire. At that time the PTA held a testimonial for her, organized by Mrs. Candy Beard. Almost 100 then-present and past pupils, associates and friends attended offering her a scrapbook of reminiscences and a bicycle.

Madeline Bennett in 2006, from Town Report of that Year, Library Staff.

Madeline Bennett in 2006, from Town Report of that Year, showing Library Staff.

Madeline never quite retired. Filled with a boundless energy and a need to contribute to her community, she held a job at Rosie’s Posies Flower Shop, and also volunteered at the Merrimack Library. She accepted a full-time position at the library when one became open, retiring from that position in 2009, at the tender age of 95.

Two years later, in 2011, when the Town of Merrimack held its Independence Day Parade, Madeline rode in the Conestoga wagon, as the parade’s grand marshal, and the recipient of the town’s Boston Post Cane.

Madeline insisted that all of the other people who had applied for the cane, also ride in the Conestoga wagon with her.  They were all invited, and most of them rode along with her that 4th of July.

Photograph of Madeline Bennett with former pupil, Virginia Penrod at Madeline's 100th Birthday Part in Merrimack NH. Photograph courtesy of V. Penrod, used here with her permission.

Photograph of Madeline Bennett with former pupil, Virginia Penrod at Madeline’s 100th Birthday Party in Merrimack NH. Photograph courtesy of V. Penrod, used here with her permission.

On February 1, 2014, the day after her one hundredth birthday, students, friends and family gathered to celebrate Madeline’s birthday, at the John O’Leary Adult Community Center in Merrimack. They reminisced about the good and the bad, but mostly the good. Madeline was a much beloved and admired mentor to countless town residents.

Madeline lived a full life, and passed away during her 100th year, on September 17, 2014. At the next meeting of Merrimack’s Town Council, on September 25th, the council extended sympathies to Madeline’s family, noted her many years of dedication to the Town of Merrimack, and observed a moment of silence in her memory.

Madeline’s name will continue to be known to Merrimack’s children, as the road at the Middle School is named Madeline Bennett Way, in honor of her dedication.  “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance,”  was her motto in the Keene teacher’s college yearbook.  That merry heart she bequeathed (along with wings) to everyone who knew her.

My cousin Ginny Penrod wrote a beautiful poem about her former teacher.
Petite peaceful Presence
Learning / knowledge happened naturally
As happiness filled the air
Lessons were not a thought as
Awakened curiosity was magically there!

All in our places with sun shiny faces….
Oh this was the way to start a new day!
No matter the weather,
We’ll face it together!
Yes, this is the Way to each every day.

** Editor’s Note: According to The Daily Standard (Sieston, Missouri) newspaper of 22 October 1964, the origin of the quote found at the beginning of my story, comes from Robert Frost’s “first assignment to a class of teachers.” He read the story, ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” Mark Twain’s story of the frog that failed in a jumping contest because he had been pumped full of quail shot. When the class didn’t seem to understand what this story had to do with education, he explained it using this quotation. [per Margaret Pepperdene].


Jeremiah “Jerry” Nash b 1830 Ireland, d –; m. in Co. Kerry Ireland to Mary Connor.  She b. 1840 in County Kerry Ireland, and d 10 Nov 1912 in Nashua NH. They immigrated to the United States about 1880 with 8 children. He is buried St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Hudson NH.
OBITUARY: Nashua Telegraph, Nashua NH, 11 Nov 1912
Mrs Mary Nash, one of Nashua’s oldest Irish residents, died early Sunday morning at her home, 57 Palm street. She is survived by four daughters and a son. The deceased was well known among the elder residents of the city. The funeral will be held at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning. High mass of requiem will be celebrated in St. Patrick’s church.
1880 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Nashua
Jerry Nash Self M 50 Ireland
Mary Nash wife F 45 Ireland
Nellie Nash daughter F 25 Ireland
Bridget Nash daughter F 23 Ireland
Maggie Nash daughter F 20 Ireland
John Nash son M 16 Ireland
Ellen Nash daughter F 14 Ireland
Kate Nash daughter F 11 NH
Hannah Nash daughter F 9 NH
Miles Nash son M 5 NH
Children of Jeremiah & Mary (Connor) Nash:
1. +John Nash, b. abt 1855 Co. Kerry Ireland
2. Bridget “Delia” Nash, b. Dec 1857 Co. Kerry, Ireland, d. 7 Nov. 1925 Fall River, MA; m. 24 January 1884 Nashua NH to John Dowling. Buried St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Hudson NH.
3. Margaret Nash b 1865 Ireland ; m. 30 Oct 1889 in Boston MA to David Murphy, son of John & Ellen (?) Murphy.  Res. Roslindale MA.  He was a Lineman, and she was a dressmaker.
4. Ellen “Nellie” Nash b. abt 1867 Ireland; m. John Mandigo. Res. Rutland VT
5. Katherine/Catherine A. “Kate” Nash, b. 2 March 1868 County Kerry Ireland, d. 25 April 1955 in Nashua NH; single; buried St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Hudson NH
6. Hannah Nash, b. 1871 County Kerry Ireland, d. 25 August 1897 Nashua NH; single; buried St. Patrick Cemetery, Hudson NH
7. Myles Nash, b. 1875 Ireland, d. 20 May 1920 Nashua NH; single, shoeworker; buried Hudson NH
8. Jeremiah “Jerry” Nash, b, 1879 Nashua NH; d. 2 February 1880 Nashua NH, of diphteria, buried St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Hudson NH
9. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Nash, b. 20 March 1884 Nashua NH; d. 5 October 1953 Concord NH; m. 26 November 1930 to Thomas J. Manning.  One child. Buried St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Hudson NH

John Nash, son of Jeremiah “Jerry” & Mary (Connor) Nash, b. abt 1855 Co. Kerry,  Ireland, d. 31 January 1898, aged 43 of consumption in  Nashua NH.  He m. in Ireland to Ellen “Nellie” Sullivan, daughter of Michael & Mary (Breen) Sullivan.  She in 1859 in Ireland, d 2 June 1901 in Nashua NH of tuberculosis.  His children’s birth records list his occupation as laborer. They are buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Hudson NH.
1880 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Nashua
John Nash 27 work in forge Ireland Ire Ire
Ellen S. Nash 25 wife keeps house Ire Ire Ire
Minnie Nash 3 W F 3 daughter Ire Ire Ire
James Nash 1 W M 1 son Ire Ire Ire
1900 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Nashua
Ellen Nash F Ireland  widow, 8 children 7 living
James Nash son M 20 Ireland
Dennis H. Nash son M 17 NH
John Nash son M 14 NH
Nellie Nash daughter F 10 NH
Miles H. Nash son M 5 NH
Children of John & Ellen (Sullivan) Nash:
1. John Nash, b. 2 March 1877 Scarteen, Kerry, Ireland, probably died young, as there is a 2nd son named John born later.
2. Mary I.”Minnie” Nash, b 6 January 1878 Ireland; d. 5 Jan 1914 in Portsmouth NH, aged 35 of TB; m. 25 February 1895 in Portsmouth NH to Edward T. Dwyer, son of Edward & Jane (?) Dwyer.
3. James Nash, b. 10 May 1879 [Nov 1880 census] Scarteen, Kerry, Ireland
+4. Dennis J. Nashua, b. 29 April 1884 [June 1883 census] NH
5. John Andrew Nash, b. 2 June 1886 [Aug 1886] Nashua NH, d. 2 January 1978 in Wrentham MA; m. 6 Feb 1921 in Boston MA to Emily Adeline Martha Gunn, dau of John & Annie (McDougall) Gunn.  She b. 17 Oct 1893 Boston MA, d. 31 July 1987 Attleboro MA.
6. Ellen “Helen C.” “Nellie” Nash, b. 13 Feb 1889 Nashua NH; m. 9 Nov 1906 in Nashua NH to Albert C. Thorn, son of Charles E. & Elyza (Esty) Thorn.
7. Margaret Nash, b. 11 November 1891 Nashua NH.
8. Francis Herbert Nash, b. abt 1894 Nashua NH, d. 3 December 1948 Brentwood, Rockingham Co. NH; m. 14 October 1913 in Portsmouth NH to Christina Ann Farewell, dau of James & Margaret (Dwyer) Farewell. She was b. in New Foundland, Canada.
9. Miles H. Nash, b. June 1895 Nashua NH

Dennis Nash and wife Bertha (Chase) Nash on their wedding day.

Dennis Nash and wife Bertha F.  (Chase) Nash on their wedding day. Photograph courtesy Merrimack (NH) Historical Society.

Dennis J. Nash, son of John & Ellen (Sullivan) Nash, b. 29 April 1884 NH, d August 1970 Nashua NH; m. 18 August 1909 in Nashua NH to Bertha F. Chase, daughter of Addison Knight & Maria A. (Campbell) Chase.  She b. 28 October 1889 in Nashua NHd October 1978 in Nashua NH.  He was a street car conductor aka “motorman” street railway.
9 October 1954 Nashua Telegraph, Nashua NH
Mrs. Maria Chase Blais, widow of Joseph P. Blais, died early this morning following a long illness at the home of her daughter by a previous marriage, Mrs. Bertha Chase Nash of 1 King Street with whom she had made her home for several years.  A resident of this city for the greater part of her life, Mrs. Blais was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, May 1, 1862, a daughter of Murdock and Mary Campbell. She was affiliated with the First Baptist church and was a member of the Gold Star Mothers Inc., being the oldest member in this state.  Surviving relatives include a son, George S. Chase of Saginaw, Mich; a daughter Mrs. Bertha Chase Nash of this city; seven grandchildren; six great-grandchildren and several nephews and nieces…. Farwell funeral home…
12 August 1970, Nashua Telegraph Nashua NH
Obituary: Dennis J. Nashua, 1 King St., died at a local hospital this morning following a short illness. He was born in Nashua May 2, 1886, son of John and Ellen (Sullivan) Nash.  He was educated in the local schools. A former employee of the Nashua Street Railway, he was later with the J.F. McElwain Co. retiring 11 years ago. He was a member of St. Patrick’s Church, and the Golden Age Club.  Survivors include his wife, Bertha F. (Chase) Nash; three daughters, Miss Muriel B. Nash of Nashua, Mrs. Alba (Madeline) Bennett of Reeds Ferry and Mrs. Malcolm (Pearl) Taylor of Clearwater, Fla; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; a brother, Dr. John A. Nash of Wrentham, Mass.  Sullivan Brothers Funeral Home is in charge of arragements.
1920 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Nashua Ward 3
Dennis J. Nash 33 NH Ire Ire  motorman,
Bertha Nash 30 NH NH Can-East
Muriel B. Nash 7 NH
Madeleine Nash 5 NH
Pearl M. Nash 4 NH
Nashua Telegraph, 19 August 1969: 60th Anniversary
Mr. and Mrs. Dennis J. Nash of 1 King St., celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at their summer home in Rye Beach. They received a money tree and other gifts, as well as congratulatory messages from President Nixon, former President Harry S. Truman and Gov. Walter Peterson. Mr. and Mrs. Nash were married on August 13/18, 1909 by the late Michael J. Moher.  They have three daughters, Muriel, who resides with them, Mrs. Alba (Madeline) Bennett of Reeds Ferry, and Mrs. Malcolm (Pearl) Taylor of Redington Beach, FL.  They also have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. For many years, Mr. Nash worked as a conductor for the Nashua Street Railway, and later at J.F. McElwain Co.

1932 Yearbook of Keene New Hampshire showing Muriel Nash.

1932 Yearbook of Keene New Hampshire showing Muriel Nash.

Children of Dennis & Bertha (Chase) Nash:
1. Muriel Bertha Nash, b. 22 May 1912 NH, died 30 April 1986 in Pinellas,

Alba Bennett & Madeline (Nash) Bennett

Mary Pearl (Nash) Taylor & husband Malcolm A. Taylor.

Florida; In 1940 living with her parents in Nashua NH. She graduated from Keene High School.  She was a school teacher.
2. +Madeline Irene Nash, b. 30 January 1914 Nashua, NH
3. Mary Pearl “Pearl M.” Nash, b abt 1916 Nashua NH.  She m1st) 30 May 1940 in Nashua NH  to William Lester Haven, son of Arthur L. & Nellie (Rock) Haven.  She m2d) 19 Sep 1959 in NH to Malcolm A. Taylor, son of David O. & Gertrude (Gilman) Taylor
4. Irene Nash, b. 1922, died 25 October 1926 Nashua NH, aged 4 years of diverticulitis. She is buried in St. Patrick Cemetery, Nashua NH.

Madeline Irene “Nan” Bennett, [this story is about her, see above] daughter of Dennis & Bertha (Chase) Nash, b. 30 January 1914 Nashua NH, d. 17 Sep 2014 Manchester NH. She is buried in Last Rest Cemetery. Resided Merrimack NH.  She married 23 Sep 1939 in Nashua NH to Alba Bennett, son of James Andrew & Stella Mae (Jones) Bennett.  Alba Bennett was b. 24 Nov 1910 in Manchester NH and died May 1985 in Merrimack, Hillsborough Co. NH. In 1940 he was a leather worker in a tannery. He was also supervisor of the Merrimack checklist in various years, and also assisted the Town of Merrimack in taking the census. On 20 May 1943 he enlisted in the US Army as a private for the duration of the war. In 1951 he was working as a Merrimack NH patrolman for the police force.  They are buried in Last Rest Cemetery, Merrimack NH. [Alba’s father–James Andrew Bennett, b abt 1889 son of Frank J. & Margaret J. (Ferry) Bennett married 15 June 1910 in Manchester NH to Stella Mae Jones, daughter of Alba Joseph & Ella (Clay) Jones. They divorced 2 June 1913 in NH].
Child of Alba J. & Madeline (Nash) Bennett:
1. Beverly Ann Bennett. In 1962 won the DAR Good Citizens Award at Merrimack High School. She was active in basketball and softball teams, and co-editor of the yearbook. She served as secretary, VP and Preisdent of her classes in various years, and was salutatorian of her high school graduation class. She graduated from Keene State College, Class of 1966, teacher in the Nashua school system.  She m. 4 October 1969 to Mark M. Haseltine, son of Brigadier General & Mrs. Edward J. Haseltine.


Editor’s Note: My thanks to Madeline’s daughter, Beverly, my cousin Virginia Penrod, and Anita Creager of the Merrimack (NH) Historical Society for providing some photographs to include in this story.

This entry was posted in History, Irish in New Hampshire, New Hampshire Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Centenarian, Teacher Extraordinaire, Boston Post Cane Recipient: Merrimack New Hampshire’s Madeline Irene (Nash) Bennett (1914-2014)

  1. Amy says:

    This is a lovely tribute. I wonder how many 100s of students (1000s?) she had over the years. I wish I could go back and thank some of the wonderful teachers I had as a child (though there were some who fell into the quail shot category as well).

  2. Penrod Virginia says:

    check the pic of Muriel Bertha Nash (yearbook Keene 1932) and the face in the questioned pic. Y’think?

    • Janice Brown says:

      Virginia, I checked with Madeline’s daughter Beverly, who says the photograph is of Madeline’s sister Pearl, and her husband Malcolm Taylor. So you were very right, it was not Madeline at all. The photograph caption is now duly corrected.

  3. Pingback: New Hampshire WWI Military: The Heroes of Nashua | Cow Hampshire

  4. Pingback: New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Merrimack | Cow Hampshire

  5. Pingback: Collected Stories of Merrimack New Hampshire | Cow Hampshire

Leave a Reply