Jay Bennett, 60, Church Organist

Dec. 8, 1955 - Sept. 25, 2016
Jay Bennett,  Dec. 8, 1955 - Sept. 25, 2016

John Bennett, a retired music teacher who taught at many schools on the South Fork and was the organist at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton for nearly 30 years, died at Southampton Hospital on Sunday after suffering a heart attack at his house in Springs. He was 60 years old.

“He had the most gorgeous tenor voice,” said his wife, Shelley Bennett, an alto whom he met in the 1980s while they were singing with the Choral Society of the Hamptons. An aficionado of classical and sacred music as well as Broadway show tunes, he touched many through music, whether playing at weddings and funerals, confirmations and communions, or community productions.

Mr. Bennett, who was known as Jay, instilled his deep love of music into his countless students. During his 30-year career, he taught at Amagansett, Wainscott, Sagaponack, Pierson, Tuckahoe, Eastport, and Stella Maris Schools. His last position was at the Bridgehampton School in 2012. His wife said she had heard from many of his students since his passing.

Born on Dec. 8, 1955, he was a Springs Bonacker on his father’s side, the only child of Melvin Bennett and the former Karin Forest, a Norwegian immigrant who came here through Ellis Island. He grew up in Springs, graduated East Hampton High School in 1974, and continued his studies at Concord College in Athens, W.Va., receiving a bachelor’s in vocal performance and music education. He later earned a master’s in elementary education from Dowling College.

He married the former Shelley Dawley on Oct. 7, 1989. The couple, who always enjoyed singing together, were Victorian carolers in Southampton Village at Christmastime for many years. He also served as the musical director for several productions of the Springs Community Theater and the Southampton Players.

The couple had two children, Kristofer Bennett and Courtney Bennett, both of Springs. As a family, they loved to travel. One memorable trip was a visit last year to relatives in Norway, his wife said. His Norwegian heritage meant a lot to him, she said: At dinner, he always said a Norwegian prayer that his grandparents and his mother had passed down to him.

In addition to his wife and children, Mr. Bennett is survived by a host of extended family. His parents predeceased him.

Visitation will be held today at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Funeral services will be tomorrow at 11 a.m. at the Southampton Presbyterian Church, where his wife works. The Rev. Richard Boyer will officiate with the assistance of the Rev. Donald Hansen of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton. 

Memorial donations may be made to the Dominican Sisters Family Health Services, P.O. Box 1028, Hampton Bays 11946, where Mr. Bennett had worked for the past several years as a customer service representative.