Family, friends & fishing

The Shaws are sharing their love for Bennett Spring with the next generation of anglers


As teenagers, Jerry and Denise Shaw, both grew up in Columbia, Mo., and came to Bennett Spring regularly—with their individual families.

“My father, Ruey, who passed away in 2009, brought us,” Denise reminisced while seated in her favorite state park getaway beside the Spring Branch on a sunny August afternoon. 

“I started fishing with my Uncle Jack and my cousin, Vernon ‘Jack Junior,’” Jerry added. 

Denise’s family actually lived next door to Jerry’s same uncle and cousins. And then, the new couple spent their honeymoon at Bennett, in her father’s RV in one of the nearby campgrounds. Until this summer, the Shaws had their own camper at the recently closed Fort Bennett for many years in one of the most hidden campgrounds at Bennett, tucked in behind the store on Missouri 64, near the park’s main entrance.

“We were lucky to find another place at Peaceful Valley,” Denise shared. 

She and Jerry now live at Hallsville, approximately 20 miles outside of Columbia. 

“Columbia has grown up so much over the years, and so has Bennett over the many years we’ve been coming here. It has really been busy this last year since COVID and people realized that camping and fishing were something they could do with their families,” Denise said.

Family, friends and fishing are what has kept Jerry and Denise coming back to Bennett for over 30 years now. 

“We have four daughters—Lisa, Brooke, Kerri, and Hilary—all of whom are now married and two of them have their own RVs at neighboring Bennett Spring campgrounds,” she said. 

Their eight grandchildren have also been here, sometimes all at once, like last year. 

“I really liked that,” the proud grandmother added.

Their daughter, Kerri, and her sons also fish with them at times. 

“The boys are learning,” Denise added. “Still playing more than anything right now.”

Denise is retired after 28 years as a civilian employee with the Columbia Police Department and now works as an attendance secretary at West Middle School in Columbia. Jerry is in construction.