There were four boys and two girls in the Boone Benton family.They visited and kept track of each other and supported one another in their endeavors.From his grandmother’s side, a long lineage of French Huguenots, named Hugo Dupuy, lent Hugh his given name.
Hugh was blond, blue-eyed, slightly build. His happy personality and good looks were attractive to whoever he met. He sang well and was musically inclined. Hugh was a gentle person, courteous, moral, and hard working. He had determination and dedicated himself to doing the best at whatever he tried. As a very young man he joined the army and left his family farm in Amarillo, Texas when World War I was proclaimed. The U.S. Army sent him to Nogales, Arizona as a clerk in the Quarter Master Corps. Camp Little was a center of defense against Pancho Villa or other Mexican aggression that might present itself.
He did not speak Spanish but soon overcame that deficiency when, during off-duty hours, he met the girl of his dreams. Maria Dolores Quintero was a brown-eyed beauty who Hugh called, "My Queen," perhaps, because of her regal bearing and dignified demeanor. Maria Dolores Quintero, called "Lola," was born in Compostela (meaning a field of stars), a small town close to the Pacific Ocean in the state of Nayarit. Her family emigrated from Spain in the late 1700’s and settled in west central Mexico. Her mother's grandmother married a sailor who came with Emperor Maximilian's forces when the French were trying to dominate Mexico, thus adding French to the family’s heritage.
Lola was raised in the cultural tradition of old Spanish families and lived on her uncle's large hacienda that employed native workers. They raised cattle and crops. The family members all worked hard but also enjoyed the pleasures of music, horses and fiestas. Lola’s father's favorite horse was an Arabian horse. During the time of the dictator, Porfirio Diaz, Placido Quintero, her father, was on the road on his horse with the payroll in the saddle bags. He was going to one of the family ranches he managed when he was assaulted, robbed and killed. Placido's father, General Quintero, weeks later identified the body. Lola's mother could never accept that her husband was dead. She preferred to believe that he had been shanghaied by the "revolucionarios" and would return. Placido's empty discarded wallet found at the site was given to his little daughter, Lola.
The world turned upside-down for Lola when her distraught Mother, not able or not willing to continue in that life style took Lola and her two sisters to Nogales, Sonora, a thousand miles and more away. Her mother’s name was Maria Antonieta Cruz, but was called Antonia. Antonia built a home, which still stands, and searched for ways to earn a living. This meant that Lola, the oldest child, then ten years old was the housekeeper and the caregiver for her two younger sisters.At the age of sixteen, she went to work as a clerk at Victor Wager's confectionary, called the "Palace of Sweets." She did not speak English but she overcame that deficiency. She needed to learn English to work and to be able to converse with one of her favorite customers, Hugh Benton. Lola loved to read. She gave her life over to learning various skills in her many interests, the principal of which was her family. Both were devoted parents to their one daughter and two sons.
Despite all their cultural differences Dolores Quintero and Hugh S. Benton had many things in common, among which were love of adventure, love of learning which led to love of life. One example, after his stint with the U.S. Army, he bought a horse and wagon and farming supplies and went to Mexico to grow cotton. A “scam” artist conned some of the young veterans into going to Mexico. The citizens would furnish the land and tools and water and the Americans would furnish the expertise, labor and seed. The income would be split according a formula. The American con man did not furnish what he promised. But my mother and Dad stayed anyway. They learned about the land and the people and had a great adventure.
Hugh took some correspondence courses passes the exam for Customs Inspector and was hired. He stayed until he retired after being with the unit for twenty-five years. During which time he rose to the rank of Deputy Collector of Customs. The U.S. Customs, under the Treasury Department, gave Hugh the assignment of opening a new international port of entry to Mexico. He suggested the name, “Lukeville,” for the port, after the famous World War I Ace Pilot from Phoenix. The Benton family moved to Lukeville in 1941 and became acquainted with the area. They traveled to Rocky Point, Punta Penasco, Mexico. Lola spent hours reading and learning about seashells and marine life. That was the beginning of a collection that lasted for 40 or more years.
The couple, who eventually moved to live in California, shelled in California, up and down the West coast from Canada to Southern Mexico. They traveled to Cuba, Texas, Florida, Louisiana and points between. The collection comprises some gifts of shells; there were a few instances of trading and buying; but, the greater part is what they gathered, cleaned, classified and stored themselves. Hugh and Lola appreciated the value of shells for their beauty, for their role in the ecosystem. In their homes, the shells were placed in display cases for all to see. With all certainty, the Benton’s would have been pleased to know that the University of Arizona is caring for the collection and is displaying the shells for all to see.
A memorial fund was established in their name. The fund was increased recently to support a graduate assistant fellow. Rebecca Prescott has been named the Graduate Research Fellow and is currently listing the shells families on the web site. She is also building shell kits for various grade levels to aid grade school students in learning about shells and marine life.
Currently curated by Dr. Peter N. Reinthal, the collection is housed on the main campus. Questions concerning the collection should be directed to:
Dr. Peter Reinthal
Associate Curator of Fishes & Invertebrates
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Fax: (520) 621-9190