Lee Bentley was born on February 21, 1939, in Ravenna, Michigan, to parents Hazel (Krueger) and Charles Bentley. She died unexpectedly on March 28, 2021, in Lafayette, Colorado. Lee was remarkably curious and creative her whole life as well as resourceful and resilient, qualities that sustained her especially as she faced serious disability and health challenges for her last twenty years. She was a lifelong seeker who loved to learn and broaden her horizons and who had the determination to pursue her goals and dreams.
Growing up in a rural farming community, Lee early on showed that she would push beyond the typical farm woman’s lifestyle. As a four-year-old Lee began her artistic endeavors that evolved into a life path she followed with zeal. In 1956, at seventeen, she married her high school sweetheart, Jesse Morey, and had four children. Over the years she lived in university towns because she loved the cultural and educational opportunities that they offered her family and herself.
Lee also became committed to helping others, revealing openness and compassion to people different from herself. She taught her children tolerance and acceptance of all humans; to her “every person was a person,” no matter their skin color. Her tolerance was in sharp contrast to the often biased and racist mindset that was part of her rural background. Lee also worked on a suicide hotline for four years, thus discovering her talent for and love of counseling those in need.
After her divorce in the mid-seventies, Lee moved to Boulder, Colorado, with her adolescent children. It was here that Lee flowered as an independent woman, and she found her feminist voice and her professional and artistic footing. Lee was a multi-media artist who not only painted but made pottery, sketched, wrote poetry, played musical instruments, and used her aesthetic sensibility to decorate and create beautiful spaces. Lee’s paintings celebrated the female body, a subject that placed Lee’s art in the pioneering and growing feminist art movement of the 70s.
Connecting with the artistic and intellectual community became another focus for her innovative spirit. Lee became known for giving wonderful parties that brought together an eclectic mix of poets, artists, musicians, writers, and teachers. A Quaker friend described Lee’s interests as “wide and far ranging, she had a seeming encyclopedic knowledge of many subjects, Gestalt therapy, Jungian psychology, Irish music, primitive religions, Italian cuisine, and art in all its manifestations.”
After moving to Boulder, Lee also found opportunity to continue her education and pursue a professional life. She attended Naropa University, where she earned a master’s degree in Western and contemplative psychology. She counseled first time offenders at the Boulder Justice Center with the goal of keeping them out of jail and helping them find jobs or other alternatives. She also volunteered at Safehouse to help women who experienced domestic violence.
Another of Lee’s goals was “to find a spiritual home.” She attended Unitarian services and came to Quaker Meeting intermittently over the years. She also got involved with Tibetan Buddhism. This effort as well as her artistic and her professional life were upended when she was in a car accident which left her with a serious brain injury during the 90s. Lee was also subsequently involved in a number of car accidents that caused further brain damage and other injuries. She nonetheless learned to cope with her disabilities, and never gave up her search for a spiritual home.
Around 2012, Lee started attending Boulder Friends Meeting on a regular basis. As she wrote in her letter requesting membership, “I believe I have found my home, it feels as though I have come home sitting on Sundays meditating with others in meeting, where something special occurs in this group silence.” Silent worship resonated with her spirit and gave her peace, and Boulder Friends joyfully admitted her to membership in 2018. She found Quakers compassionate and appreciated the care that community members provided for each other; she felt that the community was a loving family. For their part, Friends appreciated her rich contributions to worship and the life of the Meeting, the joy she radiated, and the loving connections she made with many of us. As a lifelong seeker, Lee found a spiritual home and, through her resourcefulness and resilience, gave Boulder Meeting the gift of her participation.
Lee is survived by her four children: Denise (John) Coe, Vinton “Rob” (Brenda) Morey, Tanya (James) Petty, and Stephanie Morey. She leaves four grandchildren, Timothy, Joshua, David, and Elizabeth Petty, as well as her sister Lynne and brother-in law Michael of Michigan.
A memorial service for Lee was held July 10, 2021 at the clubhouse at Lee’s condo in Boulder. She will be dearly missed.
Submitted by Anne Marie Pois of the Oversight and Membership Committee
Approved by Boulder Friends Meeting August 8, 2021