Remembering Bennie Lee McGowan

Saying goodbye to someone you love is never easy. Especially, if they have been a pillar in your life, for your whole life. A week ago today, my family and I said goodbye to my grandmother as she was laid to rest.

My grandma was a southern bell, an actress, a friend, an advice giver, interesting, someone who meet challenges face on and someone I am going to miss terribly. Today I am going to introduce you to my grandmother; Bennie Lee McGowan.

Growing up I idolized my grandmother. She was an actress and for a short period in my life I thought I was going to follow in her footsteps. Bennie was born in Chickasha Oklahoma, and was named after dad Ben. When she was in high school , a friend dared her to try out for a play. Bennie did and the acting bug bit her hard!

After high school she went to the University of Texas. Where she acted her way to a bachelors degree. After she went back to Tulsa Oklahoma, where she stared on her own shopping show. While in Texas, she meet Howard Keel, and the two even kissed on her front porch after a premier of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

After Oklahoma, she did what most actresses of the 50’s did and moved to New York. In New York she worked for a nation wide new show where she even meet JFK. In New York she is where she meet my Granddad George.


At the time George was living with Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. These two guys wrote The Fantasticks and in our family it is rumored that Luisa was based on my grandmother. George and my grandmother feel in love. George moved to California to star in a western television show, and a few months later my grandma followed .

The were married, by my great grandfather whom was a preacher and their lives together began! Shortly after the nuptials my grandma worked at MGM as a secretary. While there she became pregnant with my mom. My favorite story of her time at MGM is when Gene Kelley came in to Bennie’s boss. Bennie got up to see him, and she was very, very pregnant Gene Kelley gave her a bow.

After my mom was born, my grandma stayed home. Bennie went on to have two more children, my uncles. Growing up my mom lived a colorful life and in the 70’s George and Bennie divorced.


After the divorce Bennie moved back to Tulsa Oklahoma, to be near family. While she was back in her home town of Oklahoma, Bennie started acting again. This is where she meet my grandpa Bill. Bill and Bennie adore each other, and claimed to never fight! ( I also wondered what their definition of fighting was). In Oklahoma Bennie, was in the play Oklahoma, where she played Aunt Eller at Discoveryland. (She even acted in Oklahoma, for Princess Di)

After Oklahoma she and Bill moved back to California, where she had guest roles on All My Children, Family Matters and Designing Women. When it was time to kinda retire she and my grandpa moved to Idaho to be next to my family.


Growing up with Bennie as a grandma meant there was never a dull moment. Bennie was always there giving me advice, helping me through tough times as a teenager, and just supporting and loving me.


When the cold winter become to much they moved back to California, than followed us to AZ. In Arizona I watched my grandparents become great grandparents and give my daughter the same love they gave me. After my grandpa Bill passed away last year, Bennie refused to use the word goodbye.


Before I end this post I just want to share how much I learned from my grandma. To me she was a pioneer. When she had a goal she always meet it no matter the challenges. Bennie always encouraged me to live my best life, telling me that nothing was to big I couldn’t accomplish it. I already miss my grandma very greatly and this holiday season is very different without her physically here.

So for now I refuse to say goodbye to my grandma, just see you later.


Thank you for allowing me to share with you the life of my grandmother. It’s hard to lose someone who has been a there you whole life. However I know this is not the end. I know I will see her again and I know she is happy being reunited with those she loved so much.


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