Arthur William Bennett had just concluded a 23-year career with the Army — a fruitful time that saw him awarded the Bronze Star and carried him through the Pacific Theater as he fought alongside the allies against the Japanese in World War II.
Born in Ithaca, New York, on Feb. 16, 1919, Bennett was ready for a change of scenery. So he, and wife Margaret, piled into the family car and headed south.
They landed in Broward County in what is now Coconut Creek in 1963. The city has a name partly due to Bennett’s efforts.
“He liked what they saw and got involved with the city,” said daughter Karine Bennett. “That’s just the way he was.”
Bennett died on May 10 at 97. County leaders called him a pioneer.
When the couple moved to the area, Pompano Beach was the big city on the block. Bennett, and others, incorporated Coconut Creek by seceding from Pompano Beach in 1967. Bennett, who bought the 29th home built in the fledgling Coconut Creek, began the petition of 100 names to start the process that would incorporate the city, which took its name from Miami’s Coconut Grove and Indian Creek neighborhoods.
Bennett served on the city’s first Planning and Zoning board and was appointed its chairman in 1967. He served on the city council from 1971 to 1974 as vice president and president and was instrumental in the building of Coconut Creek’s first recreational center, the Rowe Community Center, and Windmill Way, a walking path from South Creek to Windmill Park.
The Broward County Historical Commission named Bennett a Broward County Pioneer in 2011 for his contributions to growing the county. Former Florida Rep. Allen West sent a congratulatory letter to Bennett on the occasion, name-checking Sir Winston Churchill.
“As prime minister of England Winston Churchill once stated, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ I appreciate your willingness to give of yourself to make the community in which we all live a better place,” West wrote.
A “garrulous man,” his daughter said, “he liked people and liked doing what he was doing.” These interests included trap shooting and a passion for gourmet cooking. Over the years, Bennett refereed football and baseball games in the community, which became home to film and television star Bobby Cannavale (Vinyl), American Top Team mixed martial arts school co-founder Ricardo Libório and Bellator middleweight champion fighter Hector Lombard.
In addition to his daughter, Bennett is survived by his granddaughter Anne Marie Bumgarner and great-grandchildren Jay and Benjamin. A celebration of life will be private.