Kitty Benedict Interview:
This is jean McMillen. This is file 98. I am interviewing Kitty Benedict; she is going to talk a little bit about her husband Foxhall Jones. She is also going to talk about various boards that she has been on in Salisbury. Today’s date is June 24, 2015. I am going to start with the genealogical background.
JM:What is your name?
JM:What is your birthdate?
JM:Your birth place?
KB: Summit, New Jersey
JM:What are your parents’ names?
KB:My mother was Katharine Taber Benedict. My father’s name was H. Guion Benedict.
JM:Did you have siblings?
KB:One sister, Anne Nightingale.
JM:What is your educational background after high school?
KB:Smith College, I graduated in 1956.
JM:What was your degree?
KB:In English, cum laude. I did go to Johns Hopkins too very briefly for about a year.
JM:Naturally! I know a little bit about Foxhall Jones in that he was raised here in Salisbury. Who raised him, please?
KB:His mother and father both died in an accident in New Jersey in the late 1930’s. He and his brother Arthur Jones (See File #67Nnancy Bayersdorfer, Arthur’s daughter) became a ward of Emily Fowler. She was named their ward or guardian. They moved up here about 1938 or ‘39 and lived in the Stiles House (75 Main St. Salisbury) with Emily and then later Agnes Fowler, although they actually went off to school while they were living with Emily to St. Paul’s. Then they both enlisted in the military: Arthur in the Air Force and Foxy in the Marine Corps. He left school at 17 and served in the Marine Corps about 1945.
JM:Where did you meet him?
KB:I meet him at Harper and Rowe where I was working; actually it was Harper and Brothers. I finally became an editor; he was a book salesman, a book rep who traveled around New England mostly to independent book stores. He loved it; he was very good at it.
JM:When did the 2 of you move to Lakeville?
KB:It was 1978.
JM:Where did you live at that time?
KB:Actually it might have been a tiny bit earlier because we lived in the Chittenden House. We got an apartment there when it was apartments.
JM:That is the one up beyond the Lock-Up?
KB:Yes. Then we moved to Lakeville on Interlaken Road and that was from about 1978 to 1989 when we moved to Lion’s Head.
JM:When you were living here in Lakeville, were you on the library board at all?
KB:Well you mean Salisbury really,
JM:Yeah I do.
KB:As a book person I was instantly drawn to the library. I am not sure when I went on, but I went on the board and stayed on it for quite a while. Gayle Binzen and I were ultimately were named emerita and then they wiped us off the slate. Foxy was on the book selection committee for a while.
JM:That’s when I met him, when I was on the book selection committee. How about Berkshire Hills Music and Dance? You were on that for quite a while, too.
KB:I don’t remember how long, but yes for a few years, when Al Sly was the head.
JM:What was the purpose of that organization?
KB:I don’t know much about the history but apparently it had been started by a women who was quite a socially, in contact with lots of people. It was to bring music, dance, comedy but I do not know about theatre.
KB:They had one wonderfully comic one and the name of that woman was Anna Russell. She was very well known.
JM:I saw that; I have three of her records. When that came up, I made sure I went. Thank you for remembering that. That was a good one.
KB:it was so much fun because at first everybody was very suspicious on the board. Anna Russell, does anybody remember her? Then it was a great success.
JM:Oh it was standing room only on that one. What about the Mental Health Center? You were on that for quite a while? Was that when Dr. Reiss was involved with it, No this would be Dick O’Connor.
KB:Yes, Dick O’Connor and Leslie Firth, Sally Ellsworth, Arthur Rosenthal, Glynne Robinson Betts was there for a little bit. She used to run the paper with her boyfriend back in the late 19780’s
JM:That does not ring a bell with me.
KB:Robert Hatch was the co-owner.
JM:That name I remember, but not the lady. When you were on the board of the Mental Health Center were an officer or just a member?
KB;I was just a member; I mostly worked at a fund raiser. They had an opera singer once and they had a wonderful one at the lake. It rained it was supposed to be outside. Sally Ellsworth was very involved. It was at the lake. We were terrified that it was going to rain but it was very successful. Most of them were.
JM:Was the building next to the Methodist Church is that where it was located?
KB:That is where the offices were.
JM:You said coming up the stairs said that you used to sing. You were in Crescendo for a while weren’t you? What was your…
KB:At first I was there because I was going to Lime Rock, to Trinity Church and Christine Gevert came as their organist and choir director. She developed this notion that she wanted to put together a musical group with singers, first it was just singers and now it is singers and period instruments and period orchestras. It was petered on the edge of collapse. The church was very supportive, but no thought it could survive; several of us said that it has to survive. Randy Williams and Geoff Brown, maybe Martha Baer and I said we have to continue. I was President for about four years and then I made Herb Primm take it over.
JM:Good for you. It is still going; it has been 10 years. She has done a marvelous job with it. Are you still singing with her?
KB:No I don’t sing. I do go to all the concerts.
JM:Are you still on the board?
JM:The last time I picked up on Family Services, you were on the board of that.4.
KB:No I am not on that board any more. I stayed until they did the garden; that had nothing to do with my quitting. I just didn’t think I brought anything terribly useful, although I did work on their fund raiser which was great fun. That was the year Dan Dwyer and Susan Knight got all these actors to come and read about Salisbury’s small town.
JM:I think I contributed some oral history transcriptions to that.
JM:It was a great success.
KB:It was. Laura Linney was supposed to be the lead celebrity, although we didn’t know it at the time, she was pregnant and she was not feeling well. So Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep’s daughter, substituted for her.
JM:Good for her. I just did an interview with Patrice McGrath about Salisbury Family Services.
KB:It was very exciting because I arrived at Hotchkiss theatre and everybody on the board was going around shaking their heads. What is the matter? Laura Linney is not coming, and it was about 5:00 o’clock. I don’t know how they managed. I guess Dan probably managed to find Mamie. Ed Hermann and Starr Hermann were on the stage reading. There was somebody else an actor also on the stage.
JM:I heard about it afterwards how well it was received.
KB:It really was; it was surprising how many people poured out for it. Maybe because they thought they were going to see Laura Linney.
JM:It really doesn’t make any difference because they came, they listened and they enjoyed it. It was well worth it.
KB:it was a great idea. It was Dan’s idea.
JM:Oh he is good too. I did an interview with him. (See file# 76 Dan Dwyer) which was great fun.
KB:He found this wonderful whole book about a good boy who lived in Salisbury. It was written by Catherine Sedgwick in 1800’s. It was a good boy in Salisbury and a ”bad” boy of Mt. Riga. It was quite a lovely book although it was a little prejudiced. The bad boy was not really bad; he just gets that reputation because his father is no good. I said to Dan, “We should use this.” He said, ‘No, it is a little tricky, bad vs. good.”
JM:Are you on Hospice Board?
KB:No, I was on the steering committee when Claudia Warner was there. Claudia was the instigator of it. Louisa La Fontan was definitely involved from the very beginning. Louisa was a nurse at the hospital; she’s now retired. She is the sister of Skip Mattoon who was the Headmaster at Hotchkiss.
JM:What was the reason that Hospice was started?5.
KB:Claudia had a son who died very young from some form of cancer. I don’t know where she got the inspiration. I was interested in it because my sister was dying of cancer and I heard about this hospice thing that was started in England. I guess Claudia had heard about that too.
JM:it is a wonderful opportunity for comfort for the family as well as for the person. I was talking to Kathy Shortelle (See File #56 Kathy Shortelle)about it and the fact that now they track the family members for a year after the death. We are so fortunate with all the services that we have in this community for anything. One of the reasons I am doing oral history is that it is such a wonderful community. People do so much volunteering; you have been on so many boards. It is a marvelous community and we all work together. What would you like to add to this that I haven’t asked you about? Have I missed any of the important boards that you have been on?
KB:I was on the board for the Housatonic Day Care Center for a little while.
JM:Tell me about that. Where was it located when you were on the board? Was it on Wells Hill or had it gone over to Salmon Kill?
KB:It was at Salmon Kill when I was on the board. I was there about 4 to 5 years.
KB:I had been working and not had children but I thought how other women who want to work managed if they don’t have anybody to take care of their kids. In France they have this incredible plan to get time off from you job for about 6 months as maternity leave. In this country it is up to the individual to try to manage everything. It must be incredibly difficult.
JM:This is why when I was teaching the Extras program was started. When I was first teaching, we did not have latchkey children. There were 2 parents: mom was at home baking cookies when the kids came home from school. As time progressed more and more women worked: the children were in school, but school lets out at 3 o’clock and business does not get over until. It started as a homework/enrichment program and now it is expanded tremendously which is great. It was a need, and again the community saw the need and filled it.
KB:I don’t know this for sure but most of these groups like mental health, day care, Salisbury Family Services were all started by women. They had to get men on board, but it was usually the women’s idea to do it.
JM:They were the ones that were managers in the background that needed these services. We had women then that were able to benefit the town and serve everybody. They would decide that yes, we need day care or mental health services or support for the people that can’t pay medical bills or mortgages and that sort of thing.
KB:Even food like OWLS Kitchen which is now the Northwest Food Pantry or the Corner Pantry. I can’t remember.
JM:Have you been on OWLS Kitchen?
JM:When I was talking with Patrice, (See file #97, Patrice McGrath) we talked about food, fuel medical expenses, and transportation. Transportation is still difficult.
JM:Were you ever on any of the affordable housing boards?
KB:I did a book for the Connecticut Collision for Housing, something like that. It was for a Hartford lobbying group. Some people from Norfolk, Allen and Frank Melville, decided to do it. They were very supportive always for affordable housing. I put together a book for the Ct. lobbying group but they paid for it. It was given away. It was great fun to do: Christopher Little of Norfolk took picture, Kathryn Boughton did some writing. I got Tom Brokaw to write the Foreword. I had gotten Tom, I didn’t know him but I knew Dan Rather. I was his editor at Harper’s. I met Tom playing tennis, and I asked him if he could give money to mental health. I think he gave $500 or something.
The next thing was we wanted to raise money for Lime Rock church (Trinity). He had just published a book, The Greatest Generation. I said, “Why don’t you come and do a book sale of your book and the proceeds will go to the church. About 2 days before the event, we had all the books shipped out from the publisher. I got a message on my machine saying from Ellen somebody that she had bad news, “Tom was in Moscow; he probably won’t be able to make it.” I didn’t say anything, I just listened to the message and I went OOOH. Then there was another message and it was the same woman, ”Forget the last message he’ll come.” He flew from Moscow, having been interviewing Gorbachev; he arrived just in time for the book sale.
JM:Wow! That was magnificent.
KB:Then I asked him to do a Foreword for this book on affordable housing. At the end of our conversation, he finally said, “OK Kitty, am I finished?”
JM:Well, you have to see people when you see them. What a wonderful story. That is a great place to end the interview.
KB:Do you want anything about Foxy? (The papers she gave me are on file in his folder in the genealogical records.)