Kathaleen M. Benbenek died at home in East Hampton on June 8, having celebrated her 72nd birthday the week before. Ms. Benbenek, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January, died of cardiac arrest. She had a history of cardiac illness dating to 1995.
She lived for more than 10 years on Church Street in East Hampton, raising her young family there, and later moved to Sag Harbor Road. She worked at Roger Molter’s video store on Gingerbread Lane for a time and at Yvette’s Kitchen on Main Street, but spent many of her years as a full-time wife and mother.
She married Anthony Francis Benbenek Sr. on Oct. 12, 1958. He died of lung cancer in 2000.
Her family described Ms. Benbenek as a “frustrated artist” who put a few paintings in the Clothesline Art Sale at Guild Hall, designed pen-and-ink note cards, fashioned wreaths, painted artwork for children featuring happy cartoon creatures, and kept journals, which helped her with the losses of her husband and a son.
She could be mischievous, said her children, who recalled a pussy willow tree in the backyard that would magically sprout marshmallows. They called it one of many whimsical moments that their mother would come up with for them.
“I remember one summer on Church Street,” her daughter Penny Benbenek of East Hampton wrote. “All of us kids, including some neighborhood kids, were just harassing the hell out of her — in and out of the house a hundred times, wanting juice, water, to use the bathroom . . . so she locked the door and told us to go play already.”
“A group of us went to the door and started banging away, screaming. . . . All of a sudden this bloody hand appeared from behind the curtain on the door. You never saw six kids run so fast. I later found out the blood was ketchup, and as I tried explaining the horrors of the day to Dad when he came home, I saw that a smirk was on Mom’s face. She got us good that day.”
She was born in Manhattan on May 31, 1940, to Charles Francis Keating and the former Sarah Elizabeth Newton. Her parents died when she was quite young, and she grew up in Northport with relatives.
Ms. Benbenek was an enthusiastic member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the American Legion post in Amagansett, selling fund-raising flowers in front of Waldbaum’s, helping out with raffles, and working in the kitchen during various events. “She preferred being part of the support team rather than being in the spotlight,” her family said.
She was known for her chicken soup and for years kept the coveted recipe a secret. She was a frequent blood donor and a member of the East Hampton Town Blood Drive Committee.
In addition to her daughter, Ms. Benbenek is survived by two other children, Patricia Ann Benbenek-Beirman of Ogdenburg, N.Y., and Anthony F. Benbenek Jr. of Sag Harbor. She is also survived by seven grandchildren.
William Charles Benbenek, a son, died in 2001. Two sisters, Theresa Bunce of North Carolina and Elizabeth Smith of Arizona, also predeceased her.
A gathering for friends and family will take place at the American Legion in Amagansett on Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. Ms. Benbenek’s ashes “will be spread at one of her favorite spots once the summer has been returned to the locals,” her family said.
Memorial contributions have been suggested to the Community Council of the Town of East Hampton, P.O. Box 5044, East Hampton 11937, or to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978.