By Beth David, Editor
Al Benac did as the hobbits do: He gave presents away on his birthday.
The newly minted 90-year-old donated nearly 10 paintings by Elizabeth T. Delano, including four friezes, which are panoramic paintings used to decorate the top of the wall around a room.
Mr. Benac also acquired and donated to the town, to be placed in town hall, a very large painting of chrysanthemums, a famous portrait of the artist’s mother, Elizabeth S. Delano, and a pair of portraits of the artist’s mother and father.
Since it was also his birthday on Tuesday, 5/16, Mr. Benac was required to listen to the crowd sing “Happy Birthday” to him in the banquet room at town hall.
Mr. Benac, who is the town curator, said that Elizabeth T. Delano was the first well-known woman artist from Fairhaven, and he wanted her to be recognized.
On hand for the occasion was Elizabeth C. Delano, a descendant, although probably from Elizabeth T’s cousin.
The Delanos in Fairhaven go back at least to the 1830s when Warren Delano I built a house on Walnut Street. The home would become Sara Delano’s, who was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother. FDR visited Fairhaven often, even after becoming president.
Elizabeth T. Delano’s relation to the president is best described as “well acquainted cousins,” said Office of Tourism Director and local historian Christopher Richard.
Elizabeth T, the artist, was born in June of 1845 on 34 MIddle Street in Fairhaven and died in November, 1933, at 88, while living at 91 Pleasant Street. In betwen she grew up at the house on Washington Street. You know the one, the big stone house at the top of the hill.
Mr. Benac said he got the friezes from his childhood friend Al Cyr, who lived in Elizabeth T. Delano’s house at 91 Pleasant Street in Fairhaven.
The current Elizabeth Delano, said she grew up in Fairhaven and does not want to live anywhere else.
“I think it’s great,” she said about Mr. Benac’s gift, adding that the history he has preserved and given to the town is “pretty remarkable.”
“We’re lucky to have him,” she said.
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