Although he never had children of his own, Gordon Bennett was remembered at a memorial service last week by dozens of boys he helped mold over 35 years as scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 106 in Middle Village.
Bennett, 76, died of cancer three weeks prior to the memorial, which was held on April 18 at Trinity Lutheran Church, the troop’s home. Under his reign, the troop was so popular that membership drives were never held. And his scouts remained loyal, some of the adult ones visiting him during his two-year bout with the disease.
Among the packed audience of at least 200 people were many former scouts, some balding and with paunches in their 30s and 40s. Still others now live out of town and sent their parents to represent them.
The program was led by two of Bennett’s former scouts, Anthony Zalak, now the assistant scoutmaster, and Mike Schulte, the scoutmaster, both Eagle Scouts. Zalak called Bennett “a mentor and role model for me who never said no” when asked to do something. “That’s why I stayed in scouting,” he said.
Schulte said that Bennett had seen through his mischievousness as a child “and I was able to become an Eagle Scout, which many people thought would never happen. He helped develop me,” the new scoutmaster said.
Rein Olvet, charter organization representative for the troop, whose three grown sons were members, said that Bennett was “truly a legend. He had perseverance and was committed to serving our boys.”
Al Kobe, Troop 106 Committee member, recalled sharing a tent with Bennett at summer scout camp for 24 years. He mentioned Bennett’s dislike of cheese and love of the Islanders.
Joe Bradley, another committee member, called the scoutmaster “a visionary who was creative and was deeply concerned with improving the lives of kids.” Bradley noted that Bennett was a very private person, not known for smiling a lot but with a unique sense of humor “at times.”
He then rang a little brass bell saying: “Now Gordon has his wings.”
Others remembered Bennett for quietly helping pay for needy boys to attend summer scout camp. Several reminisced about his large van used to transport scouts on camping trips, to summer camp and visits around the country, as well as his love of classical music.
Richard Schulz knew Bennett through the Masons, where he was a member for 40 years and the treasurer of Queensboro Lodge 892. “His books were perfect and he never used a calculator,” Schulz said. “He did watch his pennies.”
Dan Maldonado, another of Bennett’s Eagle Scouts, pointed to his unconditional love. “His ability to love us surpassed our mistakes,” Maldonado said. “He was more of a dad than many of us ever had.”
Zalak concluded the program by saying “Bennett wouldn’t want us to be sad” since he had devoted nearly 60 years to scouting. “It was his life,” he said.