Dr. Lawrence R. Bennett, 91, affectionately known as “Doc” or “Larry” passed away peacefully on Sunday, February 10, 2019 at Wayne Memorial Hospital under the care of Hospice of South Georgia surrounded by his loving family.
Larry was born on July 2, 1927 in Atlanta, Georgia to the late Dr. L.R. Bennett, Sr. and Elsie A. White Bennett. His family moved to Jesup when he was one month old and later he graduated from Wayne County High School in 1944. After graduation, Larry continued his education at the Citadel before his college career was interrupted by a short tour of duty in the United States Navy during the time when World War II was drawing to a close. Returning home, Larry completed his college studies in pre-med, then entered dental school at Emory University where he held a job selling pots and pans to help pay for his college expenses. While living in Atlanta he met the woman who would be his wife of sixty-three years, mother of four children, grandmother, business partner, confidant and soul mate, Janis Verhey. The two dated for only three months and were married at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta on June 22, 1951. Living on peas, beans and rice with no car and no money, the couple moved home to Jesup in 1952. Larry went into practice with his late father for about ten years prior to his death and later was joined by Dr. Bartow Parkerson and Dr. Doug Kronn. Although he gained a great deal of success in his dental practice, Dr. Bennett concerned himself with the well-being of the less fortunate citizens of our community as well by volunteering his services to patients who he described as those who “fell between the cracks” and couldn’t afford to pay for or made too much money to qualify for government assisted dental services. For thirty-nine years, he volunteered his time with the children’s dental clinic at the Wayne County Health Department providing general dental work to children of all ages. Children, however, were not the only beneficiaries of Dr. Bennett’s benevolence as he also supervised a clinic that provided denture services for senior citizens. Dr. Bennett was also a part of the active medical staff at Wayne Memorial Hospital for many years and had served as President of the Georgia Dental Association and the South East District Dental Association. His love of people was evident and his love and commitment to his community endured until his final days. Larry volunteered his time through countless organizations including The Jesup Kiwanis Club, the Wayne County NAACP and the Mental Health Association of America, an organization he held very near and dear to his heart. He was a mentor to many students over the years and set an example for everyone to follow with the way he lived his life. Dr. Bennett was a firm believer in the value of higher learning and he helped countless students attain scholarships for college over the years and had even paid tuition on more than one occasion. Larry was awarded the Friends of Youth award by the Optimist Club. He had served as chairman of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce in the seventies and was awarded the highest honor of the Chamber in 2010 when he received the Distinguished Service Award. One of Dr. Bennett’s proudest accomplishments was being the Grand Marshall of the Martin Luther King Day Parade in Jesup. Larry was a long time active communicant and Sunday School teacher at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Perhaps it was Larry’s interest in people that explained his enthusiasm for life and his love of people that brought about his strong desire to see both unity and love thrive within our community.
In addition to his numerous philanthropic activities were a host of physical fitness routines in an attempt to better his life and the lives of his family and friends for the years to come. He took up jogging in an attempt to help kick the habit of smoking in the 60’s, a time when people didn’t run for the purpose of exercising. As he began to see the positive benefits of jogging, he introduced more activity into his life. The Bennett’s love of physical fitness and his late wife’s love of swimming led Larry to build Wayne County’s first heated twenty-five yard, double lane, lap swimming pool so that the athletes training there could do so year round. Many a swimmer, including Olympic Gold Medalist, David Larson has practiced in the Bennett swimming pool. Although Larry had played a “little” tennis in high school, he began to play on a regular basis. He “treated” himself to his own tennis court in 1972. After introducing his own family to the sport, he took an active role in promoting tennis to the community. A strong supporter of the High School tennis program, he assisted in securing courts for the campus. Larry then took up biking. He, his late wife, his daughters and friends have traveled hundreds of miles all over the state of Georgia, sometimes even further, participating in numerous rides to benefit various organizations and more importantly to better their overall health and have a good time doing it. In his spare time, Larry also enjoyed sailing, walking and hiking. He had even hiked part of the Appalachian Trail on several occasions. In his later years, Larry enjoyed visiting with his family and friends, always willing to lend a helping hand to a good cause and give a word of advice or encouragement to a friend in need. Of course he continued his daily exercise and community service like always and had been working on a book most recently entitled QUID HIC. This book deals with big issues and asks the question, “why we are here on Earth and for what purpose.”
In addition to his parents and his wife, he was preceded in death by his brothers, Charlton Bennett and Daniel Bennett.
Survivors include four daughters, eleven grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren with two on the way. Oldest daughter, Julie Bennett Sample, and her husband, Woody, live in Oxford, Mississippi. They have three daughters and three sons-in-law. Kasey and Todd Lemkin are the parents of Camp, Ryder, Forest, and Dublin. Lawren and Jesse Hoy are the parents of two daughters, Woodley and Tennyson. Abigail and Will Etling are the parents of a son, Mercer and a daughter, Rowan. Widget Bennett Richards and her husband, John, live in Marietta, Georgia. They are the parents of Nicholas, Mark, and Tom Richards. Mark and his wife, Robyn are expecting their first son. Jody Bennett Reichel and her husband, Rob, live on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. They have one daughter and a son-in-law, Morgan and John Hawk. Morgan and John have three children, a son, Cooper and two daughters, Lenox and Logan. Jody and Rob also have three sons, Andrew, Jeffrey, and John David. Andrew and his wife, Lisa have a son Robert. Maggie Bennett Missel and her husband, Chris, live in Jesup. They have a son, Lawrence. He and his wife, Ashley have a son, Bennett, a daughter, Tybee and another son on the way. Dr. Bennett has a sister Tommie D. Bennett Kappler of Darien and brother David R. Bennett and wife, Brigitte of Jesup.
A celebration of life will begin with a memorial service at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 2, 2019 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Jesup with the Reverends Dee Shaffer and Steve Larson officiating. A reception will follow immediately in the Parish Hall which all are encouraged to attend.
Honorary pallbearers will be his caregivers, Doc’s Pool Ladies and members of St. Paul’s Adult Sunday School Class, the Jesup Kiwanis Club, Wayne County NAACP, Mental Health Association of America and Penny’s Bible Study Group.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 745 South Palm Street, Jesup, GA 31546, Wayne Counseling Center, 263 N. Brunswick St., Jesup, GA 31546, Hospice of South Georgia, 1625 Sunset Blvd., Jesup, GA 31545, the Wayne County NAACP, P.O. Box 956, Jesup, GA 31598, the Boys and Girls Club of the Altamaha Area, 550 East Orange Street, Jesup, GA 31546 or Jesup Kiwanis Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 892, Jesup, GA 31598.