Feb. 22, 1926 - May 19, 2017
Helen Dent Lenahan, a nationally acclaimed equestrian and philanthropist and the daughter of the founder of the former Durez Plastics and Chemical Company, died Friday at Buffalo General Medical Center after a short illness. She was 91.
A devoted equestrian since early childhood, Ms. Dent Lenahan owned more than 100 horses and ponies through the years, including three national champions. She was inducted into the equestrian community's National Show Hunter Hall of Fame in Old Salem in 2000.
She also was presented with the Mrs. A.C. Randolph Legacy Award by the United States Hunter Jumper Association in Lexington, Ken., in 2011 for her seven decades in the horse show industry. She was recognized as a horse owner and competitor with the Wells Award at the National Horse Show in Lexington last year.
Her daughter, Buffalo businesswoman Susan Lenahan, was a rider of many of Ms. Dent Lenahan's horses in competitions all over the country. She said that horses were her mother's hobby and her passion, along with orchids and gardens.
Ms. Lenahan said her mother rode three-gaited and five-gaited horses at National Horse Shows every year for 25 years before she had to slow down. Last year, she drove Welsh ponies to a number of championships in competitions through the United States and in Toronto.
Last year, her horse, Miss Lucy, won the $100,000 United States Hunter Jumper Association International Derby's best hunter competition in Lexington.
A Buffalo native, Ms. Dent Lenahan was a graduate of Stella Niagara Academy, Buffalo Seminary and Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
In 1921, her late father, Harry M. Dent, founded General Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. The company became Durez Plastics and Chemical Co. in 1926 and in the mid-1950s joined Hooker Chemical until it was purchased by Occidental Chemical Corp. in the mid-1960s.
Ms. Dent Lenahan served on the boards of the Harry M. Dent Family Foundation, her own Helen Dent Lenahan Foundation and the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center (the former Buffalo Saddle and Bridle Club). She created the Helen Dent Scholarship Fund at Canisius High School and, through her foundation, she provided support through the years for Buffalo Seminary, Elmwood-Franklin School and Nichols School.
Her husband, John James Lenahan II, died in 2011. In addition to her daughter, Ms. Dent Lenahan is survived by two sons, John and Christopher, and four grandchildren.
A memorial service for Ms. Dent Lenahan will be held at The Chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery at 11 a.m. Wednesday.