Edward Charles Bennett

September 10, 1925 ~ March 25, 2020 (age 94)


Edward Charles Bennett, passed away at home, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. He was born in Adams Friendship, Wisconsin, September 10, 1925. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Arlene Rose Bennett, his daughters Nancy (Dean) Baumgardner, Janice (Terry) Turke, and his sons David (Ginny) Bennett, and Steven Bennett. Their grandchildren are Danielle Schmidt, Corrie (Ed) Varga, Kaitlin (Pete) Young, and Alexa (Sean) Gibbons. They also have three great-grandsons, Wesley and Quincy Young, and Jackson Gibbons. Ed grew up during the depression in Adams Friendship working with his father as a carpenter's assistant. He said a big part of his job was gathering up all the nails in the yard that had dropped during the day, because nails were expensive. He moved to Beloit during high school and introduced himself to the band director at school asking if he could use a soprano saxophone player. The band director shook his head and said we can't use a soprano saxophone in the marching band, but he took one look at Ed's lips and said, "We can use a baritone." Ed took up the baritone sax and played it until late in his life in the Watertown City Band. He passed his love of making music to his children, several of whom still play. He was less successful in passing on his love of Polka music. When Ed moved to Beloit, he met Arlene's older brothers who became his best friends. At the time, Arlene was their little sister, and neither knew the adventure that lay ahead. In 1944, Ed joined the Army Air Corp and trained to become a navigator on a bomber. Under duress he would tell the story of training on the beach in Florida in their underwear, and turning their shorts backwards. This made him laugh out loud- something he was good at, and it was infectious The war ended before he could ship out, and he attended UW Madison studying Engineering, as he had an aptitude for Mathematics. He often said that he would never have thought of going to college but for the G.I. Bill. After graduating he took a job in Thule, Greenland, engineering structures for a new air force base that could be used on the great circle route during the Cold War. He spent six months in Greenland and returned to Beloit with a nest egg and an engagement ring for his bride-to-be. Ed and Arlene moved to Green Bay where he worked for the WI Dept of Transportation. Then on to Beloit, WI, from 1966 to the City Engineer for many years. The Bennett family left their home state and Ed took a job as the City Manager in Meadville, Pennsylvania, from 1966 to 1971. The family returned to Watertown, Wisconsin, where Ed was the beloved City Engineer and surveyor until he retired. Perhaps the only negative thing anyone said about Ed was to blame him for a complicated set of one-way streets. He retired before traffic circles! Ed and Arlene traveled extensively and immersed themselves in other cultures. On a visit to a Bolivian Quechua village with their former foreign exchange student and lifelong friend, they were given a baby goat and lamb, which they gratefully and quietly donated to a local family. For years Ed and Arlene joined church trips where they traveled to communities in South America from Peru to Guatemala to build schools. They also hosted several Rotary exchange students, helping change young peoples' lives. For years Ed and Arlene spent winters in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Their passion was to scour the beach for shark's teeth- each new one a treasure. Ed had another passion, perhaps even an obsession, Pancakes. Saturday morning was devoted to perfecting the pancake. The morning after Ed passed, his grandchildren all made buttermilk pancakes in his honor. Ed learned a secret bread recipe from a baker friend that he practiced for years, and baked bread for communion at the First Congregational Church, which Ed And Arlene attended religiously. They were active and devoted members of the congregation. In their later years after retirement, Ed was a private surveyor, attended by his trusty assistant, Arlene, as the rod woman. Ed was unnaturally kind, patient, and calm. His sons witnessed when he would smash his thumb with a hammer, and he would just say, "Nuts!" When his children were in trouble, he and Arlene would set them down on the couch and after an excruciating pause, he would calmly express disappointment in themselves, as parents. His children longed for a punishment that would let them feel punished and move on, instead they were nudged to look inside and learn something. Ed had a wisdom that came from a simple way of being. He saw no reason to dwell on the negative. He saw all kinds of reasons to enjoy life and connection. He avoided conflict, and when it was necessary to be involved with conflict, he was unwaveringly respectful. He did not ultimately care what others thought of him. When asked why he didn't care, he would shrug and say, "Why would I?" When asked, do you believe in God and heaven Dad, he responded softly, "Why wouldn't I?" He rode a refurbished bicycle to work most sunny days. It had a 4 inch thick seat. He would ride and wave, and claimed every day that the seat was his throne. Ed was not simple, but his way of life and his way of being was so uncomplicated, because he was not confused by how to handle daily events and life. He was an Ambassador of Equanimity. He embodied Annie Dillard's wisdom, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives..."He was kind and generous. He always met meanness and ignorance with loving kindness, and above all, patience. He had some fun. He believed life is good. In his last days in the nursing home, staff who had seen a recent movie commented that Ed was so much like Mr. Rogers. He truly was. Last week (March 25, 2020) Ed took off his Packer sweatshirt for the last time. He put on his coat and street shoes, and exited stage left. Edward Charles Bennett added a gentleness to our world. His spirit will be deeply missed. But his love and pancakes live on! Family and friends will gather to celebrate Ed's life this summer. Schmutzler-Vick Funeral Home & Cremation Service has the honor of serving the family. Please consider sharing memories and condolences at The family requests in lieu of flowers, please honor Ed with donations to the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Watertown, WI or Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. "One can be present, one does not always have to be a force."

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