Mary M. Bentley; owned Greenhouse restaurant

Mary M. Bentley
Mary M. Bentley
Posted: April 12, 2012

Mary Mitchell Bentley, 87, owner of the former Greenhouse restaurant in Radnor from 1975 to 1993, died Thursday, March 29, of complications from cancer at her home in Radnor.

Her son James said in a phone interview that running the restaurant was even more of a life-changing event than it might have been for some others.

"In terms of a job as we know it, she hadn't worked" at any job since World War II, when she was a general's driver in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve.

"At age 50," he said, "she opened the Greenhouse . . . in an old grain and fertilizer store with an actual greenhouse" near the Radnor train station.

"She had a very privileged childhood, the country-club life growing up," he said. But after divorcing in her 40s, she sought a different life.

She helped a friend who ran a restaurant, 21 West, in Chestnut Hill and then graduated from the Restaurant School.

And she seemed to learn along the way.

In 1991, Inquirer reporter Pauline Bogaert wrote:

"Greenhouse Restaurant chef David Christopher Wetz gets a lot of compliments on his new-style mashed potatoes, as well as the poached breast of chicken and Savoy cabbage in a parsnip sauce with caraway-flecked dumplings.

"The charcoal-grilled sea scallops with couscous in a roasted tomato sauce and the swordfish with melted onions flavored with fresh thyme served with grilled polenta are winners, too."

With entrees such as those, Bogaert wrote, the Greenhouse was among a dozen Main Line restaurants that had enrolled in the Winner's Choice program, which promoted healthful dining.

"I was just totally aware that our menu needed to be lightened up," Mrs. Bentley told the reporter.

Her son said that she was one of the 16 founders of the Philadelphia chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier.

Born in Philadelphia, Mrs. Bentley graduated from the Baldwin School in 1943 and, after her service in the Marines, studied briefly at the University of Arizona.

Her son said she joined the Marine Corps because her brother had died while training to become a pilot.

In the 1960s, he said, her golfing ability made her a club champion at Bald Peak Colony Club in Moutonborough, N.H., for several seasons.

She was on winning teams at the Merion Golf Club when the club played other private clubs, he said.

A competitive sailor since she was 9, she recently won the season series in the bull's-eye class at the Tarratine Club in Dark Harbor, Maine, he said.

Besides son James, Mrs. Bentley is survived by a son, Thomas; a daughter, Stacey Bentley; four grandchildren; and her longtime companion, Patricia West. Her husband, James A., died in 1995.

A memorial service was set for 11 a.m. Friday, April 13, at St. David's Church, 763 Valley Forge Rd., Wayne. A private graveside service was held Tuesday, April 3.


Contact Walter F. Naedele

at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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