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Minnie Esther Smith Cater

  • Birth 19 Apr 1887 Hartman, Johnson County, Arkansas, USA
  • Death 25 May 1954 Lakewood, Pierce County, Washington, USA
  • Burial University Place, Pierce County, Washington, USA
  • Plot New Tacoma Cemetery
  • Memorial ID 113926213

Minnie was the daughter of James Newton SMITH & Martha Jane DEETS. She married the widowed George Dallas CATER on 25 Feb 1918 in Johnson County, AR. From their union, they produced one child, Esther Gem CATER. The marriage was challenged when Minnie became the step-mother to four children whose mother & brother had just died.

After 3 1/2 years of trial, Minnie returned to the home of her mother, Martha Jane DEETS/SMITH, whose own husband had died of tuberculosis in 1896. The three females lived frugally, producing their own vegetables, dairy goods, & chickens. Bartering, extended family, neighbors, & religious faith helped this family during the hard times. Martha died in 1932 leaving Minnie & Esther to stay in her modest home built by her sons. Minnie never reconsidered remarrying though her husband divorced her & remarried.

After Esther graduated high school in 1934 at age 16, she left home to attend secretarial school in the big city of Ft Smith, Sebastian, AR. Minnie remained living in the country until Esther could afford to bring her to Ft Smith where they lived together. Esther married Carmel C BENGE on 10 Jul 1943 in Ft Smith. Minnie remained living in Ft Smith after that marriage. Minnie aided Esther when she gave birth to her only child, Carol Kay Benge on 15 Jul 1944 in St Edward's Hospital.

Minnie stayed in Ft Smith when Esther & Carol, age 8 weeks, traveled to Tacoma, Pierce, WA, to join Carmel who was stationed at Ft Lewis.

In 1946 Minnie began having a series on mini-strokes. She traveled to WA to reside with the BENGEs in a series of rentals in Tillicum, Pierce, WA. She loved to hold Carol on her lap in a blue-cushioned rocking chair, rocking her gently while reading her stories or telling her stories of Esther's childhood in AR. Minnie with her purple scarf on her head would walk Carol to a nearby store to buy her red pop or banana popsicles.

But Minnie's strokes began affecting her mind. she would wander from home trying to locate kith or kin living faraway in AR. Esther regretfully placed her in Western State Mental Hospital soon after Carmel was stationed in Camp Bender, Gumna-Prefecture, Japan. Faced with the dilemma either to join her husband in Japan or to stay in her secretarial job in WA, Esther asked Minnie what she though would be best. Minnie told Esther to go to Japan so Carol could be with her daddy. Three weeks after the BENGEs were reunited in Japan, Minnie died alone in WA.


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  • Created by: Carol Benge
  • Added: 16 Jul 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 113926213
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Minnie Esther Smith Cater (19 Apr 1887–25 May 1954), Find A Grave Memorial no. 113926213, citing New Tacoma Cemetery, University Place, Pierce County, Washington, USA ; Maintained by Carol Benge (contributor 47450439) .