Robert Ellsworth Bennett, a locksmith who had worked at many trades as a younger man, died of cancer at home in Springs on Jan. 15. He was 77.
He was born on July 14, 1935, to Lewis and Lily Wood Bennett on Cedar Street in East Hampton “in the little white house next door to the firehouse, which has since been torn down,” his family wrote. He was a tenth-generation East Hampton Bennett.
At 14, his father died, leaving Mr. Bennett and his younger sister, Ellen, to care for their mother. His three older brothers, Lewis, Marvin, and Thomas, were already enlisted in the service.
“[His mother] told him he was the man of the house now and he would have to get a job to help with the expenses,” his wife, Annamae Bennett wrote. To help make ends meet, Mr. Bennett worked at what was formerly Abe Katz’s dairy farm in East Hampton with Ray Neuhause, who picked him up early each morning. Mr. Neahause’s wife, Norma, would cook them breakfast, then Mr. Neuhause would take Mr. Bennett home to prepare for his half day at school. He also did carpentry, painting, and worked for Home Sweet Home Moving and Storage in Wainscott, among other jobs.
In 1953, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Germany, where he worked as a driver for his company’s commander.
On Dec. 29, 1954, he married the former Annamae Lester from Springs. The couple had four children and were married for 58 years.
When he returned to Springs in 1956, he worked in carpentry and learned masonry from Reg Bassett, then worked for F.B. Smith Lumber before finally becoming a self-employed carpenter in the 1960s. Soon he added locksmithing to his skills, and in the 1980s switched to strictly lock work under the business name Bob Bennett Locksmith. His son Guy has run the family business since Mr. Bennett’s cancer diagnosis two years ago.
In his spare time, Mr. Bennett enjoyed beekeeping and tending to his vegetable garden. In earlier days, he enjoyed “playing horseshoes, clamming, garbage can cookouts, and firelighting for crabs,” according to Mrs. Bennett. When he was younger, he played on the Bonac Bulldozers baseball team. He also enjoyed watching westerns, old war movies, and playing his harmonica. “He didn’t like sitcoms or game shows and thought playing around on the computer was a waste of time, probably because he never knew how to turn it on and wasn’t about to learn,” his wife said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Bennett is survived by four children, Guy Bennett, Sandra Vatter, and Donna Garrett of Springs and Ronnie Bennett of East Hampton. He also leaves behind six grandchildren, one great-grandson, and numerous nieces and nephews. His brothers and sister, Ellen Miller, died before him.
Mr. Bennett was cremated and a celebration of life will be held at his house later this spring.
Donations have been suggested to the Amagansett Ambulance Fund, the Amagansett Ladies Auxiliary, or the Amagansett Fire Department, P.O. Box 50, Amagansett 11930.