Lee Ann Bennett

Lee Ann Bennett died Sunday, June 30, 2024 at home. Her husband, Jerry Whistler, was with her.

Lee Ann was born July 25, 1963, in Aurora, CO, the daughter of Elizabeth (Lych) and LTC. Eugene Bennett.

The fourth of five children, Lee Ann was raised in a military family that crisscrossed the US and Canada from Pennsylvania to Alaska multiple times.

Of the five children, she was the quiet one, Her calm, even-keeled and patient demeanor came in handy in a household of five rambunctious kids, as did her strong will.

Lee Ann grew up playing in forests and streams, and hiking mountains in Colorado (where her family owned property in Estes Park) and Alaska, the foundation for her interest in and love of plants, insects, animals, and the natural environment. Family members have fond memories of her running through fields, intervening when she came across others who were killing or torturing bugs. Rather than letting her mother kill spiders in the house, she volunteered to remove them herself. She picked berries in Alaskan bogs and collected mushrooms in Alaskan woods. She liked to run the bases in softball games, enjoyed ice skating, and made snow forts in subzero temperatures.

Raised in a scouting family, Lee Ann spent summers at Alaska’s Harding Lake Girl Scout Camp swimming, canoeing, and making crafts. Lee Ann taught herself to knit and crochet. Throughout her life, her inventive mind turned ordinary objects into original creations, art, decorations, and jewelry that filled walls, drawers and adorned her family home. She was the “MacGyver of repair,” fixing many a toy and stuffed animal for distraught siblings.

Lee Ann graduated from Leavenworth High School in 1981. At the University of Kansas, she earned a bachelor degree in Biology in 1986 and a degree in Psychology in 1992. She completed her master’s degree at the University of Kansas in Biology (Entomology) in 2000. 

While working on her masters, Lee Ann was employed as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Kansas Biological Survey (KBS) to identify various species of chironomids (lake flies, notoriously difficult to identify) in support of water quality studies in streams in Kansas and neighboring states. After completing her graduate studies, Lee Ann was employed at KBS as a Senior Research Assistant—Entomological Specialist. In that position her work was diverse, including data analysis, editing, training students, and working with actual specimens. She was especially keen on local outreach activities that included Kaw Valley Eagle Day, Earth Day, and Water Day.

Lee Ann married Jerry Whistler on December 18, 2009 In Lawrence. However, they began their life together much earlier in 1989. Despite both working at KBS but in different units, and only separated by two offices, they had never run in to one another at work. That meeting occurred on a late Spring evening at a local watering hole that both research units retired to most every Friday after work. Lee Ann spied Jerry from across the bar toasting a newly minted PhD by drinking beer from her tennis shoe. For Lee Ann, it was love at first sight!

Like many flatlanders, Lee Ann and husband Jerry heeded John Muir’s famous quote, “The mountains are calling and I must go”. Their favorite destination was Estes Park and nearby Rocking Mountain National Park. One of her favorite activities was listening to bugling male elks during the fall rut. Her eyes would light up at their sound. Lee Ann enjoyed every opportunity to get out in nature, and she and Jerry took many Sunday drives to local lakes and parks. They had a wonderful life together and considered themselves lucky to have one another.

Lee Ann’s deep love for her family was reflected in recent years by her care of her mother Elizabeth and her younger brother Kent. Lee Ann lived her life on her terms; no barriers deterred her from pursuing her own dreams and goals.

Lee Ann is survived by her husband, Jerry, her mother, Elizabeth, her siblings: Michele Bennett Light, Michael Wayne Bennett (Marina), Lyn Ellen Bennett (Scott), and Kent Bennett, and cat Kara-Zor-El.

A visitation will take place Saturday, July 13 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home. 601 Indiana Street, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044. A private inurnment will take place at Pioneer Cemetery on KU West Campus.

Family has requested no flowers at this time, besides what they will provide themselves. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a contribution in Lee Ann’s name to the Lawrence Humane Society, sent in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, P.O. Box 1260, Lawrence, Kansas 66044.