We have gathered this afternoon to mourn the loss and remember with affection and appreciation the life of Leland W. Bennett.
In the book of Isaiah we read these to those who are wearied by the press of life,
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and wary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
In 2 Corinthians 5 (as translated in the Message)
We know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven God-made, not hand made and we’ll never have to relocate our tents again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead, He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.
Let’s pray together,
Father, we bow before you today in our sadness. Help us to see beyond the loss to the life that you have made possible through your son, Jesus Christ. Help us as we remember, reflect and hope. We ask in Jesus’ name Amen.
Leland Bennett of Valrico, Florida was born May 31, 1929 in Carthage, Illinois the son of Charles Lorenzo and Ada Susan Jones Bennett. On October 6, 1951 he married Lois Palmer in Burlington, Iowa. For most of their life they lived in Terre Haute Illinois. Lois preceded him in death on April 9, 2003.
Mr. Bennett served in the US Army, 28th Infantry Unit during the Korean War. He worked for over 20 years at the Iowa Army Ammunitions Plant in Middletown, Iowa where he constructed Atomic bombs and did weapons repair (sometimes on live warheads). Later he worked for Smith Implement, Bennett and Roth Trucking, and Bennett Custom Homes and Connections of Tampa Bay, Inc. During all these jobs Leland always also did work on the side repairing anything that needed to be repaired.
Leland was devoted to his family. He had a playful spirit and always had a joke or story (sometimes appropriate and sometimes not) for everyone. He liked to have fun but he was also committed to helping his family develop character and independence. Mr. Bennett was 79 years old when he died at 2:10 p.m. Monday, November 10, 2008 at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa Florida.
- He is survived by 3 daughters, Linda S. Bennett of Burlington, Iowa, Gloria Harmony of Tampa, Florida and Brenda K. Collins of Valrico, Florida, 1 son, Ron D. Bennett of Terre Haute, Illinois,
- 10 grandchildren, Stacie Rickleman, Emilie Orth, Ashlie Orth, Brian Harmony, Evan Harmony, Brett Bennett, Brianne Skein, Braden Bennett, Ryan Collins and Jon Collins,
- 3 great-grandchildren, Jacob Collins, Tyler Collins and Jordan Collins,
- and 1 brother, Glenn Edward Bennett of Burlington, Iowa.
He was preceded in death by his wife, 1 son, Richard D. Bennett, 3 brothers, Lloyd, Elza and Donald Bennett and 2 sisters, Hazel Huffman and Helen Atkins.
Leland Bennett was an extremely talented guy. From a very early age he was interested in how things worked. He would take things apart and put them back together again. He may have only finished eighth grade but he was smarter than most people with degrees. He had an innate sense of physics and mechanical engineering. He loved to solve problems. He relished the challenge of someone telling him that something was broken and could not be repaired. He always proved they were wrong! It is said that Leland could fix more with a rubber band, paper clip and a toothpick than most people could fix with a chest of tools.
Leland could make a part, design a tool, or figure a work-around for almost any problem. He could fix or adapt any vehicle or appliance. When he worked at the Munitions plant he found a way to open a lock that was supposedly unbreakable. He found a way to get small screws out of a warhead by designing a tool. He was able to fix live warheads that were “tamper-proof”. Leland didn’t like the fact that people called toe-trucks when they didn’t need them. He often would go out to a stranded car and get it going again. He never saw dead ends — just opportunities and challenges. Leland didn’t realize how gifted he was. He saw himself as simply meeting a challenge. There was a part of him that wondered why other people didn’t “get it” like he did.
Leland served his country in the Korean War. He didn’t like leaving family behind but serving his country was the right thing to do. He made the best of things, made some good friends, and couldn’t wait to get home.
Above all, Leland was a family man. Lois was the love of his life. He met her the first time when she was still in beauty school. She taught him how to cut hair (a skill he used in Korea).They were a team, partners, and lovers. They understood each other and brought out the best in each other.
Leland believed family should always come first. To him going on vacation meant having family come to visit or going to visit family. He taught his kids that if a family member needs you, you drop whatever you are doing at whatever time you are doing it and go and help them. He practiced what he preached. His children learned the lesson well. When Leland was sick they did for him what he needed to have done and never even thought about complaining.
Leland worked a lot when the kids were growing up. He wanted to provide a good home for his family. He also wanted to pass on his wisdom. He would often give the kids various tasks simply to teach them to be independent. He wanted them to be able to face a challenge rather than be incapacitated by it. Even when Gloria was a little girl, dad took her outside during a thunderstorm to teach her there was nothing of which to be afraid. He knew thunderstorms were a part of life and she needed to be able to handle them.
Leland taught his children to work hard and to do a good job at whatever they did. It didn’t matter what other people were doing. He believed you should always do your best. Even at 75 he was still willing to do more than his share of the work. Son-in-law Bob (and boss) said, “I do not recall in the 20 some years of working with him ever having a job he could not do or a problem he could not solve. He will be missed by me as a great employee and a wonderful father-in-law.”
Leland pushed his kids to get the education he didn’t get. He wanted them to do well in school and if they didn’t, they would hear about it. He believed education was the key to success. He was justifiably proud of his children and the successful lives they had.
Leland did not like to discipline the children because he was too soft-hearted (plus he was pretty mischievous himself and it was hard to punish his kids for doing what he might have done.) However, you knew you were in trouble when you got “the pinch”. Leland was firm, but fair. He believed you should learn a lesson the first time so you didn’t have to repeat a mistake and possibly live with much greater consequences. He was constantly telling the kids to “think before they act”. He knew that there were consequences to every action and wanted his kids to think about those consequences before they chose what they would do. He knew the choices we make determine the path we travel. The choices we make determine the enjoyment we experience in living.
Leland had a big heart. He not only gave himself to his family, he gave himself to anyone who was in need. He would gladly help a total stranger. Early one Sunday morning a large family from Peoria was stranded in Terre Haute. They came to the door and asked if anyone knew a mechanic. The father had to be back in Peoria for work on Monday. Leland got out of bed and gladly worked on the car. He invited the family in for breakfast! When he found he couldn’t get the part he needed before Monday he gave them the family car! The man came back the next week and retrieved his car. He was willing to use anything he had to help anyone who needed help.
Leland had to deal with some difficult things in life. In those times he did what needed to be done even though he had trouble sleeping because of some of these things. Nothing was more difficult than losing Lois.
Leland was always late. Almost always it was because he was caught up in some project – usually for someone else. He came across as opinionated but it is probably better to see him as a man with deep convictions. He believed there was right and there was wrong and didn’t see any room for compromise. He believed he was right – debating that fact was a waste of time.
Leland Bennett savored life. .he enjoyed his journey through the years. One story probably catches his spirit more than others. Early one morning he was watching the snow fall and got all the kids up out of bed to see it. He marveled at the fact that every snowflake was unique. He was aware of many of the wonders that most of us overlook in life. He was a compassionate and sensitive man. He was very tender-hearted. He felt things. He identified with people in a compassionate way.
Leland enjoyed life. He and his siblings had a lot of fun together. Once they even tried to walk on water by tying inner tubes to their feet. It worked until they tried it again in deeper water and flipped over and almost drowned! He was a prankster. He might glue the shoes of his co-workers to the floor, put a mouse trap at a light switch at night so you would get your finger in the trap, or he might booby-trap the stairs so he would know you were coming in late, or put a bucket of water over the door so you would get soaked. Leland always had a joke or a story. It seemed he had a story for every occasion. He had a sharp mind and great recall.
Even as he died it seemed like he was did it on his terms. His hearing seemed sharp up to the end. The Doctors marveled at his fight and determination. He would not die until he was ready. His family did not let him down. The packed his hospital room so they could walk him down the corridor to the door of eternity and waited with him until it was time to go. When the Doctors started talking about hospice, Leland knew nothing more could be done – so he died. When that time came his family entrusted him to the capable and nail-scared hands of the King.
Leland Bennett was not a church-going kind of person. I wish he had been. It would make it easier to speak with confidence of his eternal resting place. I think the church is God’s way of transmitting the faith and developing the people of faith. The church exists to encourage us in our faith.
It wasn’t that Leland disliked the church; he thought it was important for his kids to attend and he encouraged Lois in her faith. It just didn’t seem to be for him. It is important that we remember today that faith and church membership are not necessarily the same thing.
Leland recognized the creative genius of God. He saw the order in creation. He lived for others because he had a sense of values that were aligned with those of the Bible. He lived his life as one who knows he will be held accountable for what he does here.
The Bible is clear: no one can be saved just by being a decent person. No one is decent enough. If we are going to “live even though we die” we will need the help of our Savior, Jesus. We must trust beyond ourselves. We must trust Him to save us. So did Leland trust sufficiently? God will have to answer that question. I will not try to “preach him into Heaven”. However, there are some things to keep in mind.
In the book of Proverbs we read,
Children are fortunate to have a father who is honest and does what is right (20:7 TEV)
Do what is right and fair; that pleases the Lord more than bringing him sacrifices (21:3)
If you have to choose between a good reputation and great wealth, choose a good reputation (22:1)
Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. An injured man lay along the side of the road and three people travel by. One was a priest; another was a Levite (a man known for his religious service). Both of these men were too busy to stop and help. The third man was a Samaritan. Samaritans were viewed as pagans. Jesus’ crowd would have been inclined to “boo” when he mentioned the Samaritan. However, it was the Samaritan stopped and helped the man. He cared for him and used his own money to do so. Jesus asked the crowd, “Which of these people truly loved his neighbor?”
Jesus seems to make the point that God is not after religious actions; he is interested in having people truly and radically follow Him. Those who follow are the ones who truly have faith.
In Matthew 25 Jesus told a parable about sheep and goats and said that on the day of Judgment some will be granted eternal life and others would be denied it. When those granted Heaven asked “Why?” (Isn’t it interesting that they didn’t think they deserved it?) Jesus said,
the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Again Jesus made the same point: true faith is revealed in the way we live our lives. We see faith in the way we treat others; especially those in need.
Don’t misunderstand where I am going with this. I’m not saying Leland will go to Heaven because he was a good guy. I’m not encouraging you to follow Leland’s example in not being involved as part of a church . . . it can be a dangerous path to follow. What I am saying is those who gain eternal life are those who put their trust and confidence in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christ tells us that true faith involves more than just belonging to a church or getting baptized (even though these are important). True faith is evidenced in the way a person lives their life. The truly faithful person lives their life as Jesus did. They see beyond themselves and live with a sense of accountability. I am suggesting that the life of Leland Bennett may reveal a faith that was not immediately evident.
If that is the case, we have great comfort today. We can rejoice that Leland is finally home with his Lord and has been reunited with Lois, Richard, his parents and so many of his friends. He has heard the Lord’s “Well-done” and knows that 8th grade education or not – He has done what God called him to do.
Our job today is to remember, give thanks, and learn the lessons we have been taught. I encourage you to be sure about your faith and to make sure your family knows where you stand and what you believe. I encourage you to share your stories of Leland and recount the many lessons he taught. Remember some of these things Leland taught you:
- Do your best in whatever you do
- Think before you act
- Learn from your mistakes
- Don’t spend your life looking for problems, focus on solutions
- Put family first no matter what
- Never lose your sense of wonder at the great and beautiful in life
- Lighten up and laugh; enjoy the journey
- Education is a privilege take it seriously
- Your values aren’t worth much if you aren’t willing to stick to them and live by them
- Think about others
You were very fortunate to have been exposed to a man of such character and ability. It’s my prayer that you will continue to appreciate and give thanks for the example you have been given. May God, in His mercy and grace welcome Leland into His home and may He build faith in us so that someday, we will be with him again.
Please pray with me,
Our Father, we thank you for Leland’s life. You alone know what was in his heart. We ask you to extend mercy and grace to him.
Help us today to develop a practical faith; one that sees beyond the grave in death and sees beyond the surface in life. Father, help this family to pass on the heritage they have been given. Help them to cherish and remember what they have been given as the years go by. Comfort them in their loss. Draw them together.
We thank you for Leland’s life. Thank you for enriching us, teaching us, and providing for us through him. Help us to take the baton and carry it to the generations that follow. We ask it all in Jesus’ name. Amen.