Natalie loved to reminisce to her family in later years that when she was sixteen, she visited the old gypsy palm reader at Arnold's Park in Okoboji, Iowa who told her she would have great luck throughout her life.
Natalie was born October 5, 1927 and died May 21, 2013. She was blessed with good, robust health until a recent illness, and maintained a positive, feisty attitude her entire life. Natalie had a long life, full of many friends, charitable activities, travel, and a family that she loved and loved her in return.
Natalie, an only child, lived with her parents, Virginia and Allan Graham in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where her father Allan started and ran Tri-State Electric Company, a distributor of electrical appliances, as well as wiring supplies used in rural electrification in the 1930's.
After attending All Saints School in Sioux Falls, Natalie attended The Madeira School in McLean, Virginia for her junior and senior year of high school. She rode the train to school with Jane Brenton, soon to become Jane Eddy, her future sister-in-law. After Madeira, but before her marriage to Bill, (William H. Brenton) Natalie attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida for two years where she was a Philosophy major. She always thought the winters were better there than in Iowa City where she and Bill became life-long Hawkeyes. When living in Des Moines she also attended Drake University.
She met her future husband, Bill Brenton, through her parents' friends when she was sixteen, while Bill was stationed at the Sioux Falls Air Force Base. The couple was later married when she was 20 on June 15, 1948. Natalie attended University of Iowa where her husband finally graduated. After living briefly in Emmetsburg, and then Dallas Center for six years, the couple settled in Des Moines, where they lived most of their life before becoming residents of Florida.
Natalie donated time and effort to a variety of charitable and community endeavors. In her later life, she was active with the Des Moines Art Center, the University of Okoboji Foundation and "Saving Arnold's Park," and in preserving the Iowa Great Lakes through the efforts of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. In her earlier years, activities included the Junior League of Des Moines, Broadlawns Hospital, Proteus, and others. For almost 50 years, Natalie was a Trustee of the Coffin Fine Arts Trust, a trust that provides funds for the purchase of art to be displayed at the Des Moines Art Center.
The nature of her father's business allowed Natalie and her parents to take a driving trip through Mexico in the winter of 1937, visiting Taxco, Guanajuato, and elsewhere. Other winters were spent driving around the US in the late 30's and early 40's, as time permitted.
Natalie was a devoted wife, and supporter of her husband's career. In his various roles as bank president and finally company CEO of Brenton Banks, Inc., the couple organized business events including a regular Christmas party for company employees at their house when the Bank was significantly smaller. She was always Bill's sounding board and helped him through the various challenges that came with running a growing business. Additionally, the business afforded numerous opportunities to travel together. In the era that Bill was active in his banking career, the custom was one of spouses traveling together.
Natalie and Bill took a series of driving trips through Mexico in the 50's. Later in life Bill and Nat enjoyed traveling together and visited many Asia and European locations, some of the trips with their children, some without. After Bill died, she continued the tradition of traveling with her children and grandchildren by cruise ship.
Natalie loved her home at Spirit Lake, Iowa, which she inherited from her mother, who in turn had received it from Winnie Ewing Coffin, a benefactor of the Des Moines Art Center. During Natalie's life, she lived in many, many homes. However, the one constancy in her life was Spirit Lake.
Natalie had a great sense of style and fashion and would not leave home or appear at Dahl's without being well dressed. She did not own a pair of blue jeans.
Natalie was passionate about the art of interior design and improved a series of homes that the couple was lucky enough to own over the years including a home in Jamaica. She also decorated some of the bank branches preferring the lime greens and yellows to the mauves and greys that were in fashion at the time. No need to speculate that she liked Lilly Pulitzer!
Bill and Natalie shared lots of interests together over the years, including: golf, deep-sea fishing, tennis, and entertaining. For five years they had a boat on the Mississippi, boating out of Lindsay Park up to Stillwater near Minneapolis.
Perhaps one of their greatest passions together was their large group of friends. Getting together with them for dinners, parties, University of Iowa football games, and many other occasions was a great life interest and pleasure. Bill had season tickets on the 50YL, so they tailgated with friends near the stadium (especially before the era of TV broadcast games which, according to Natalie, ruined the best tailgating!) They had many friends together; they bought a place in the Naples, Florida area because, as Bill would say, Natalie's Bridge Club was there. Nat could not get enough bridge; when she did not play with her friends, she played the computer to stay sharp.
She adopted her lifelong motto from the head mistress of her beloved school…
"Function in disaster, finish in style!"--Miss Madeira
Natalie is survived by her two sons, Woodward G. Brenton (Julia) and William H. Brenton, Jr. (Angela), and five grandchildren. Woody's: Victoria Brenton (Adam Lackey), Theodore W. C. Brenton (Yara), and Woody T. Brenton. Bill's children: William (9) and Emerson (7). She was preceded in death by her daughter, Natalie Gay in 2001, and her husband, Bill in 2003.
Visitation will be at Dunn's on Grand in Des Moines from 4-6, Friday June 14. Friends are invited to lunch at Wakonda Club at 12 noon on Saturday June 15. There will be an interment ceremony at the Masonic Cemetery in Dallas Center at 10 AM preceding the lunch at Wakonda.
In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer donations in her memory to The Des Moines Art Center or Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
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