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Almost a Centenarian, Budd Bennett Stays Active With Fire Department
At 99 years and 8 months old, Budd Bennett looks forward to 100.
Laurence "Budd" Bennett
About this column: A closer look at the lives of people who live in Kinnelon, Butler and Bloomingdale.
Bloomingdale Fire Department
- Name: Laurence "Budd" Bennett was born on Gifford Street in Butler in 1911. “I’m 99 and 8 months,” said Bennett. The second of six children, Bennett received his nickname from his older sister. At 22 months, “she couldn’t say Laurence,” he said. “It’s stuck with me all these years.” Bennett will celebrate his 100th birthday on October 14. He claims not to know the secret of longevity, but says he eats everything, “I don’t think there’s anything I don’t like,” he noted. And “I have a glass of red wine every afternoon.”
- Married: Bennett married in 1936. “I was married 4 months short of 55 years,” he said. For almost ten years his youngest daughter has lived with Bennett in the house where he and his wife raised the family. “Sometimes she’s more like my mother. She’ll say to me, ‘Dad, it’s too hot out for your today.’ Or, ‘Dad, it’s cold out, put on your coat.’ She’s a good kid.” His oldest daughter lives in Pennsylvania. Bennett also has four grandchildren. The oldest, a teacher of children with Autism, is 33. The youngest is 28. One grandson lives in Tampa, Florida, and another is a secret service agent.
- Town: For more than 60 years, Bennett has lived in the house he built in Bloomingdale. “I’ve lived in the Butler/Bloomingdale area all of my life, so far,” Bennett said. He and his wife moved to Bloomingdale in 1938 to be closer to his job. “Until 1949, we lived in the little house down by the firemen’s hall.”
- Career: For 52 years Bennett worked as a mechanic at Rhinesmith’s Garage, at 35 Hamburg Turnpike. He also served as the Bloomingdale tax assessor for 32 years. “It was a part time job. I done that along with my other job,” Bennett said. “I done that nights, weekends, whenever I had time off.” He became the assessor when a councilman asked him “to take the job because the fellow before was leaving.” Bennett also became the secretary to the board of assessors. “I was the one who had to go before the county board, when people appealed their taxes, or to Newark, before the state board.” Bennett retired from Rhinesmith’s in 1979 and from the tax assessor’s office in 1980. His wife, who served as a tax collector for 16 years, also retired in 1980, and the two bought a house at a lake in Pennsylvania where they spent time with their grandchildren.
- Favorite Thing About Bloomingdale: “The fire company,” Bennett said. Despite a five-year illness in his early 30s where he had only one active lung, which required on-going artificial pneumothorax treatments, Bennett served 31 years of active service in the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department. Because of mandatory retirement requirements, Bennett retired from active duty at 65. In total, he has been a member of the volunteer fire department for 65 years. His 100th birthday party will be held at the firemen’s hall.
- Most Memorable Moment in 99 Years: “That’s pretty hard to say,” said Bennett. “Maybe getting married.”
- Current Activities: Today, Bennett stays busy by “keeping this place going,” he said. “Cutting the grass, keeping the house in shape and I have a garden.” His favorite crop is white eggplant. “I have a job getting them,” he noted. “A lady did bring me three plants the other day.” He also grows tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and zucchini. “I wasn’t going to plant the garden this year,” he said. “But then I decided to.”
- Hobbies “I like to fish,” said Bennett.
- Philosophy: “Keep busy and work. I’ve always kept busy…. Keep busy, that’s all.”
, Budd Bennett
, and know your neighbor