Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Beniteau Bell, 79, of Brownwood, passed away Thursday, March 9, 2017. Born December 20, 1937 to Thomas A. and Mary Beniteau, she grew up in San Antonio, graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1955. She married William W. Bell, a Brownwood attorney, May 31, 1969.
Mrs. Bell graduated cum laude in 1959 with a BBA in accounting from Baylor University at a time when women in the field were a rarity. At Baylor, she served as president of the Alpha Omega social club (now Pi Beta Phi) and was active in social, service and professional organizations. She was to become the first female member of the Alumni Board of the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor (1973-77), and, in 1996, was honored with the W.R. White Meritorious Service Award for outstanding service to the university by the alumni association.
After earning an MBA in accounting from the University of Texas in 1960, and despite outstanding qualifications, including having received straight A’s in graduate school, she struggled to find work in a field where women were not welcome. She secured a position as accountant with the prestigious Haskins & Sells — one of only two firms in the entire state of Texas who would even consider her — and excelled during her years in their Dallas office.
Following her marriage in 1969, Mrs. Bell left the corporate accounting world for Brownwood, starting her own practice as Mary E. Beniteau Bell, CPA. She was Brown County auditor from 1972-78. Her CPA firm grew over the years, and, in 1995, became the partnership Bell & Isbell L.L.P. She was a member, director and committee chairman of the Texas Society of CPAs, and the first female president of that organization’s Educational Foundation. She was named “CPA of the Year” in 1985 by the Abilene chapter of the TSCPA, of which she was also a past director. She retired at the end of 2006, concluding a distinguished 40-year career in accounting.
Mrs. Bell stayed active in community affairs, which included service as a founding member and president of the Woman’s Club of Brownwood, member of the Rotary Ann Club, director of the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce, charter member of the Brownwood Regional Hospital Auxiliary, member of Howard Payne University’s President’s Development Council, adult leader in the 4-H Club, and involvement with the Brown County United Way and Heart of Texas Baylor Club. She was instrumental in the restoration of the Santa Fe Depot and Harvey House as the founding president of the Brownwood Civic Improvement Foundation.
Later in life, she became very involved with the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as Texas State treasurer and chaplain, vice chair of the national finance committee, and regent of the local Mary Garland Chapter. Mrs. Bell was a member of First Baptist Church Brownwood, where she was a director of an adult Sunday school department for six years, and worked with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. In her spare time, she could be found gardening, playing bridge, caring for a menagerie of animals including her beloved Siamese cats, canning wild plum jelly and bread & butter pickles, and occasionally fishing and dove hunting on the family ranch near Lake Brownwood.
Survived by daughters, Susan Elizabeth Bell of Pasadena, Calif., and Carol Ann Bell and husband Robert Kozeluh of Chicago; granddaughters, Annabelle Mary and Audrey Jane Kozeluh; sister, Tommie McCollum of Longview; and a niece and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband, infant daughter, Mary Jane; parents; and sister Cathren Shirkey.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, March 13 at First Baptist Church Brownwood, with Dr. Rodney McGlothlin officiating. Interment will follow at Greenleaf Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Heartland Funeral Home.
If desired, memorials may be made to the Nan Massengil Texas DAR and Lollie Plummer Wooley Texas DAR scholarships at Howard Payne University.