Dorothy Gertrude Bentley and the 1918 Flu

Dorothy Gertrude Bentley Photograph Reverse of a photograph of Dorothy Gertrude Bentley

A recent donation to the Champaign County Historical Archives is this picture of Dorothy Bentley. She was a junior at Sidney High School when she died in 1918, from pneumonia after having influenza.
Small snippets of information can be found about her life and her death by searching newspapers in the Illinois Digital Newspaper collection. Some of these include her 1st place standing on school examinations, performing a duet for a program, moves made to attend school in Sidney, a bout with typhoid fever and various moves and business undertakings of her father, H. M. Bentley. Small articles on her death and funeral, that appeared in various Champaign and Urbana newspapers can also be found online.  However, the most glowing tribute is not online but can be found on the Sidney Times microfilm at the Champaign County Historical Archives.

Transcribed below is her obituary that appeared in the Sidney Times newspaper on December 20, 1918.

Worshipped in Life, Honored in Death

It is only after the heavy hand of death has been laid upon a family and severed the tender ties that had bound it together, that true friendship shines out in the complete splendor and is appreciated to its fullest extent. Nothing is so soothing to the bleeding heart as the sympathy of people with whom one associates, and to have this priceless boon in time of affliction is to disarm death of half its sting. If ever there was true friendship and genuine sympathy shown in case of death it was to Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Bentley, whose daughter, Dorothy, died last Saturday morning from pneumonia, which followed an attack from influenza.

Dorothy Gertrude, only child of H. M .and Gertrude Tucker Bentley, was born in Sidney, Illinois, July 29, 1901 and died at the same place Saturday morning, December 14, 1918 at 9:30 o’clock, aged 17 years, 4 months and 15 days.

“There is no sunshine without a shadow; no shadow which the sunshine hath not made.” The realness of this old saying has never been more forcibly impressed than by the death of this young girl who has always been a burst of sunshine. Our hearts have all felt the shadow that has come so suddenly over this community. Every person, young or old, rich or poor, feels they have suffered a personal loss, for “To know her was to love her.” Her bright, sunny smile; her happy, cheery disposition; her willingness to help in every cause and her love for all mankind made her a factor for good wherever she was known and she numbered her friends by the score.

All of her life, save the five years the family resided in Vandalia, Dorothy lived in Sidney and from a tiny tot to the blossoming of young womanhood we had watched her grow. As the years went by everyone realized she was an unusual girl. As we look back we understand how the “Great Schoolmaster” had been educating her in his own peculiar way and fitting her for a life eternal.

From early childhood she showed remarkable musical ability and began taking music lessons at the age of seven. As she grew older her voice showed wonderful possibilities and it was the supreme aim of her parents to develop these God given talents to their fullest extent. Her close friends now feel that for the past several weeks Dorothy had been almost inspired and many recall the exceptional, almost divine expression she brought from the piano when last she played in public.
So truly was music a part of her that less than half an hour before her spirit winged its flight she hummed a little song to herself. Truly, “God moves in a mysterious way; His wonders to perform.” And in fancy as we listen we can almost hear the new voice that now sings in the Heavenly choir of angels.

She was a junior in the high school, a member of the Epworth League of the Methodist church and belonged to the Presbyterian Sunday School, being pianist and a member of Mrs. C. W. Witt’s class. In all of these she played a prominent part and will be sadly missed.

During the past two years she has aided in the Red Cross and other war work; helping with some of the drives and giving of her time and talents whenever they were needed. It is a mark of earned and deserved respect that the flag from the public flag pole floated at half mast.

Words fail to express her devotion to her parents and to her home and very surely –
“A precious one from them has gone,
A voice they loved is stilled,
A place is vacant in their home
Which never can be filled.”

Besides her parents, she leaves an aged grandfather Allen Tucker of this place; a grandmother, Mrs. A. V. Bentley of Sadorus; several aunts, uncles, cousins and numberless friends who sincerely mourn their loss. 

“Weep not, the maid is not dead, she sleepath.”

“Behind the dim unknow
God stands with the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.”

The funeral services were held in the family home Monday afternoon at 2:30 and were largely attended. They were in charge of Rev. Robert Griffin of the Presbyterian church and consisted of the Presbyterian ritual for the dead, followed by “Sometime, We’ll Understand” sung by L. H. Blankenbaker, Mrs. Minnie Owens and Miss Helen Smith and a short sermon by the pastor.

The floral offerings were many and beautiful and were in charge of high school girls. The pall bearers were Joe Owens, Harold Wood, Ralph Witt, Howard Eaton, Asa Zeigler and Leal Trees.
Person attending from out of town were Mr. and Mrs. C. Rose, Decatur; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Tucker, Danville; Mrs. Lulu McClelland, Peoria, Miss Rose Helm, Miss Dorothy Potter, and Prof. C. W. Eaton, Champaign.
The burial was at Mt. Hope cemetery.

-Karla P.

Archives Assistant