A paintbrush came alive in her hands as she swept the colors across the canvas, droplets splattering against her blue smock. Ocean waves took on a realistic hue and the snow falling from tree branches was so lifelike it may have crunched underneath as fingertips slid across the image.
Ramona B. Bendin was an artist for over 60 years before she died on Oct. 6, 2013, at the SECU Hospice in Bolivia, surrounded by her loved ones. She leaves behind her a legacy of still-life beauty.
Mrs. Bendin grew up around art; her father was a cartoonist and she followed in his footsteps. She was offered a scholarship at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. where she studied commercial art, a venue she may have pursued if not for World War II. Once the war began she switched to night classes studying fashion design and figure drawing while working days at Grumman Aircraft alongside her father and sister.
Then, in 1946, Mrs. Bendin married her husband, Dick, and soon found herself as a full-time mother without the time to paint. It seemed like her career, her passion in life, might slip away.
Mr. Bendin saw his wife was antsy and knew she needed to be painting. He came home with a shoebox of oil paints, placed them in her hands and said, “Go paint.” So she did.
With her father and her husband’s wholehearted support Mrs. Bendin created a nook on the porch at home in New York. They were living on Long Island and she drove into the city for night classes.
“I always thought she was so brave,” Mrs. Bendin’s daughter, Dariel, said.
She would paint, tucked into the corner of the porch, surrounded by her children’s toys while they ran and played all around her. She’d paint a little, then lean back and cock her head to the side for perspective, looking at her accomplishments. She’d come home.
With a swish of her hand Mrs. Bendin painted seascapes and snow scenes, still water and oceans crashing, flowers and fruits. She taught classes and became a beloved teacher. She’d bring in her paint and easel and teach as she showed her classes what she was doing, explaining all the while. She’d answer questions without missing a beat and have a beautiful new painting at the end of each class.
“She had a talent for catching the light on the water and making it look alive,” Dariel said. “You could tell how cold it was in the snow paintings from the shadows on the ground.”
Dariel’s favorite painting was one of her mother’s last, a beautiful lake with Dariel’s grandfather fishing. Mrs. Bendin painted it from looking at an old black and white photograph taken years before.
Once Mrs. Bendin moved to North Carolina she began painting local scenes that became sought after by many charities and organizations in town.
“They would call and request a specific painting and she’d donate a replica of it,” Dariel said.
Mrs. Bendin donated her paintings to Habitat For Humanity, Hope Harbor, Relay For Life, United Cerebral Palsy of Wilmington, Children In Schools and various Hospice groups. Ramona would go on to be elected to the prestigious Hudson Valley Art Association and the American Artists Professional League, the latter as a lifetime member. Her work was regularly accepted into juried shows at New York’s Salmagundi Club and others. She earned Best In Show awards from Nassau County Art League and American Pen Women, in addition to receiving the Mrs. John Newington Award from the American Pastel Society of America.
Around the time Mrs. Bendin turned 40 arthritis kicked in. Eventually she had to give up oil paints, being unable to hold them in her hands. The way her hands fused together was perfect for a brush, though, so she’d slide one in and paint.
“It was very painful for her to continue working with arthritis but she worked through the pain. She loved it that much,” Dariel said.
Mrs. Bendin endured several painful events throughout her life. Medication from arthritis caused severe reactions and the pain itself was almost unbearable for her. The hardest struggle came when her husband died in 2001.
“My parents, they were like ‘Frick and Frack’,” Dariel said.
Her last paintings were done in 2006 when she put down the brushes for good. In the years following she complained about not being able to do it anymore, but she had her family to hold onto. Her children and grandchildren were a great comfort to her.
“Without my mom I wouldn’t have such a deep love for creativity. She helped me see through artist’s eyes and gave me an appreciation for art I wouldn’t have found without her,” Dariel said.
Mrs. Bendin was preceded in death by her parents, Ben and Stella Batsford; husband, Richard “Dick” Bendin; sister, Fay Keaton; and son, Greg Bendin.
She is survived by daughters, Dariel Bendin of Calabash and Mona Bendin of Calabash; son, Scott Bendin (Diana) of Glen Ridge, N.J.; niece, Barbara Bryant (Bill) of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; five grandchildren, Christopher, Eric, Andrew, Ben and Nicole; great-granddaughters, Joanna and Liza; grandniece, Veronica; grandnephew, Aragorn; great-grandnieces, Aisha, Ainsley and Charlotte; and great-grandnephew, Gabriel.
A memorial service will be held Thursday, Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. at Little River Methodist Church in Little River, S.C.
The family requests in lieu of flowers, memorials be directed to Lower Cape Fear Hospice and Life Center, 955 Mercy Lane, Bolivia, N.C. 28422 or Little River Methodist Church, PO Box 160, Little River, S.C. 29566.
Private online condolences can be sent to www.brunswickfuneralservice.com.
Brunswick Funeral Service, Shallotte.
To see a full listing of PortCityDaily obituaries, click here.