Maxine Bennett, who co-founded Castle Gap Jewelry in 1973 and worked in the longest-running shop in the Plaza at Preston Center alongside her family for nearly 50 years, died July 19, 2022, at 102.
Bennett, her son, Scotty, and Scotty’s friend Alan Franks, founded Castle Gap Jewelry to turn their shared love of handmade silver jewelry into a family business.
She grew up in the small west Texas town of Rankin, where she fell in love with the Native American jewelry that would later become her life’s passion.
Bennett married an oilman and traveled the world with him. After her husband’s unexpected death, she returned to Texas in 1973 aged 53 and began building Castle Gap Jewelry, named for the Castle Gap pass through the Castle Mountains in West Texas near where she grew up.
Since its founding nearly 50 years ago, the flagship store has remained within just a few blocks of the very first location opened in University Park, making it the oldest business in the shopping center.
“People shop at family-owned businesses for a reason — they want friendly and attentive service while putting their money back into the local community,” Maxine said. “We want each person to feel welcome and comfortable while here and to leave feeling that we went the extra mile to make them happy. Castle Gap provides jewelry and service that you just can’t get everywhere.”
The family also sought to support traditional Native American artistry. Two favorite charities of Castle Gap Jewelry are Manuelito Navajo Children’s Home in Gallup, New Mexico, and the American Indian College Fund.
“Our dream was not only to create a successful business but use it to help make traditional artistry profitable enough for Native Americans to continue passing on their knowledge and artistry from one generation to the next,” Maxine said.
Her daughter, Beverly, store manager Laura Thompson, and marketing manager Sherry Ward will continue the business and its legacy, and Bennett expressed confidence in their stewardship and the store’s future at her 100th birthday party.
A private celebration of life will be held for family and friends in September. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to Manuelito Navajo Children’s Home in Maxine’s honor through their website www.mnch.org.