Bennie Bennett remembered as man of honor, dedication

By Patricia M. Edwards -
This photo, posted to The Newberry Observer’s Facebook page by Mary O’Dell, shows Bennie Bennett on April 14 — last Thursday — showing his support for the students in Newberry County. Mary O’Dell wrote the following when she posted this photo: This was just one of those countless times Mr. Bennett showed his compassion and his support of our students and community: April 14th, 2016 soccer game NHS vs MCHS at our Relay for Life table I am among those who mourn the loss of this leader. - Courtesy photo

By Patricia M. Edwards

This photo, posted to The Newberry Observer’s Facebook page by Mary O’Dell, shows Bennie Bennett on April 14 — last Thursday — showing his support for the students in Newberry County. Mary O’Dell wrote the following when she posted this photo: This was just one of those countless times Mr. Bennett showed his compassion and his support of our students and community: April 14th, 2016 soccer game NHS vs MCHS at our Relay for Life table I am among those who mourn the loss of this leader. photo, posted to The Newberry Observer’s Facebook page by Mary O’Dell, shows Bennie Bennett on April 14 — last Thursday — showing his support for the students in Newberry County. Mary O’Dell wrote the following when she posted this photo: This was just one of those countless times Mr. Bennett showed his compassion and his support of our students and community: April 14th, 2016 soccer game NHS vs MCHS at our Relay for Life table I am among those who mourn the loss of this leader. Courtesy photo

NEWBERRY COUNTY — When the official announcement was made on Sunday that Bennie Bennett, superintendent of Newberry County Schools, was the person who had died Saturday in the wreck in front of Newberry High School, we posted the news on our Facebook page.

In that post, we asked that anyone who would like to leave a comment about Mr. Bennett or his service to Newberry County for the last 10 years to do so. We were overwhelmed at the number of people who took the time to post something about Dr. Bennett and the hundreds who shared our post to their own timelines.

Through that, our Facebook page was visited by many, many people from outside our county and touched those who knew him from other areas of South Carolina and other times in his life.

While we know that the pain and grief that his family must certainly be experiencing is overwhelming to them, we hope and pray that they can find some comfort and peace in knowing that the man they knew and loved was well-respected, loved, admired and adored by those who worked with him, learned under him or just happened to cross paths with him.

Here are some of the posts we received:

Mary Sims: Mr. Bennett was a great leader and inspiration to the children here in Newberry County. He will be greatly missed. My prayers go out to his family.

Lorri Dickerson Shannon: He always lifted up and tried to inspire those around him. At the substitute orientation each year, he liked to tell the story of how he himself started as a substitute teacher. He had a smile and a handshake for everyone he came in contact with. “The world seems a little less bright tonight, The air a little less clear.” This community will miss him.

Amber Kesler: Mr. Bennett was a person I considered my second dad. His daughter, Brittany, and I have been best friends for over 9 years & our bond grew more to be sisters. Mr. Bennett’s smile was contagious & could brighten anyone’s day. I will miss his smile, his hugs, & our talks, but the memories will remain a lifetime.

Valerie Koon Haltiwanger: Mr. Bennett was the voice of NCSD teachers and employees and an advocate for the children of our district. He was a friend and someone who openly showed his respect for those in the education system. He trusted the professionals within the district to do their jobs and we in turn respected him by working our hardest to complete each task set before us. He was quick to offer a word of advice or encouragement, a smile, and a handshake. I will truly miss him.

Nikki Jean: He was the best superintendent I’ve ever worked for in education. A true man of God who lived the district’s mission: “One District, One Team.” Praying his family and district family are able to make it through this difficult time!!!

Molly Fortune: An amazing man in both his love for education and students and his passion for Newberry.

Angie Knox: He was a great man and an amazing leader here in Newberry. He inspired all of our kids, especially my own daughter Michaela. Every time we saw him either at the District Office, or around town, I would always re-introduce her. He finally said, “I know who Michaela is by now, with her excellent grades”! He would always add something else like, “Michaela will make a huge impact on our society” or, “I know she has a great future ahead of her”. I am sure he did the same for ALL of the kids here in Newberry County, because he was just that wonderful of a person. He was able to see that all of our kids have the potential for greatness within them! He will be missed by everyone he touched and I am so very sorry he is gone.

Chris Byers: Mr. Bennett was a great person. Almost every day he made his rounds around the District Office to tell everyone “hello” and ask how things were going. His presence will definitely be missed.

Linda Killian Bratton: He was a wonderful superintendent. I will always remember when Elizabeth graduated and he took the time to take pictures with the whole family and wanted to meet each one and shake (their) hands. That is who he was. I great man that cared for all his kids. He will be missed. Praying for his family.

Amy Frick: A leader of tall quiet stature who cared for the students of Newberry County beyond their graduation. I just talked with him Wednesday and he asked about my kids who all have graduated and reminded me to remember my blessings in this hustle and bustle of daily life. My blessing today is to have known Bennie Bennett.

Andrea Hawkins: He made everyone feel special. I always loved how he made sure that students introduced their families who came to support them at district awards meetings and he always made sure parents had opportunities to take pictures. He was so personable and warm to everyone.

Pat Seymore: He was such a blessing to everyone. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends. He will be missed.

Patricia Leslie Armfield: A distinguished leader, respected by educators, faculty and students. Mr. Bennett will be missed by all who knew him. Newberry County School District has lost one of its own and we mourn with his family and friends after his tragic death.

Rebekah Bruyere: He was a leader who wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. I always appreciated the way he made sure to speak to everyone when he entered the school. He will truly be missed.

Denise Dewalt: Dr Bennett was a great person and wonderful boss…I just spoke with him Friday when I went to visit the district office. He came out to talk to me…also help me get into the building and to make sure I was OK due to medical issues. He also told me that he hope I recover safe and take my time to get well and that I still had my job as a bus driver for Newberry County when I get better and that he love me. He always had a smile on his face and would make your sad day turn into a better day. Wish nothing but happiness to whomever cross his path. But I pray for his family and he will truly be missed.

Barbara-Ken Riebe: Mr. Bennett was a “one of a kind” Superintendent of Newberry County Schools. We are, like many, still trying to digest his untimely death. He was a good man who will be sorely missed in his beloved school district. I can’t really add anything to the things said. We will always remember him. Prayers to his wife, son & daughter. Prayers to the school district, especially the students, as they try to understand the meaning of life & death.

Haven Banner: He was a great man who always worked for everyone in the district. He always looked out for us teachers and made sure all students received the education they deserved. He will be missed in Newberry schools. Today One District, One Team lost a loved and respected leader. Prayers to his family we are all thinking about you.

Amy Moore Silvers: He was a great leader and was never a stranger. He supported all schools throughout our district. He will be truly missed. Praying for his family.

Rhonda Wicker: It was a pleasure to work for him. He made you feel special. May God put His loving arms around his family.

Jason Mack: Thoughts and prayers of peace to his family, friends and entire Newberry community, such a tragic loss of a fine man.

Maghen Kimmel Mulieri: He was a great leader to NCSD. His presence will be greatly missed.

Anne Pinckney Smith: As a parent, I really felt like Mr. Bennett heard what was saying. He had the ultimate confidence in all who worked for him. This is a great loss for our community. Rest in Peace Mr. Bennett… You made Newberry a better place.

Kay Alexander Ammons: He always had a positive word for the children. He brought out their strengths and helped them realize their self-worth. Just to hear the sobs coming from my 12 yr old when he found out lets you know how loved and respected Mr. Bennett truly was. If teaching and guiding the children in the way they should go means anything, then Sir you have truly earned your pass through the Pearly Gates. Rest easy Sir.

Betsy Wicker Homesley: As a lifelong resident of Newberry County, and a product of schools here, I experienced Mr. Bennett as a parent and as a substitute teacher. He was always the same person, each time you saw him…warm, friendly, and he exuded class. He reminded me of the Superintendent when I was in school, Mr. Bedenbaugh. And I thought we would never see another like him! Prayers for his family, and his extended school family.

Ashley Gregory: He was an amazing man who did everything he could to help the students at Newberry High School reach whatever goal it is they worked towards. He was an inspiration to the younger generation and he will forever be missed by the community

Rachel Bowers Mills: The county of Newberry is numb with the announcements of deaths this weekends as we are reminded all too closely to our hearts that we are not promised tomorrow. I feel certain Mr. Bennett would want his outstanding legacy to be continued and carried on by the actions of the schools and communities that rallied around him. We must carry on his memory by never forgetting all that he stood for and believed in for our community.

Rebeca Renee Beach: Mr. Bennett was one the most respected and kind hearted man that I’ve met. He made sure everything was on track. Throughout the years me and my family were in school every time a problem came (about) he took time and listened to us and did his best to try and fix what was going on. I truly idolized this man because of the impact he made on Newberry county schools. Heaven truly gained a good one.

Miranda Arrowood: Mr. Bennett chose a seat at the lunch table next to my Daughter, Raylin at WCS not too long ago. She came home excited to tell me about her lunch buddy. He told her that she was very well behaved, had a sweet personality, and that he was very proud of her hard work as well as all of the children’s hard work. He touched her life just by choosing a seat next to her that day and I thank him for that. I also thank him for all that he did for our school district during the last 10 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, work family and the entire county as this tragic accident has devastated so many.

Jeanne Culver Edwards: Though I knew it was true I just kept hoping that I would wake up and it would all be a bad dream. It was kind of unreal/untrue because the coroner hadn’t publicly made the announcement yet. Yet here it is our great leader has left us and went onto a better place. He was such an inspiration to me and I hung onto every word that he said at the district open ceremony. One story he told us a couple of years ago I do with my students every year and when my students get to open their letters that they wrote to themselves the first day in my class three years ago about where they hoped to be on graduation day I know there will be tears in my eyes and theirs. I tell them the story of how Mr. Bennett shared with us teachers one day before the start of a new school year to motivate us and how I wanted to motivate them in the same way he motivated me to be the best I could be. My senior students look forward to coming into my room for the last time at the end of the year to read their motivation speech to themselves and to see how much they have grown and how they have achieved their goal of graduating. I will miss seeing him around the school district and miss the smile and kind words he would say to me every year when he would see me. It always amazed me how he knew my name. I am just one out of thousand employees in that district but he took time to know who worked to better the life’s of students in Newberry County because that who he was. I know he is sitting up in heaven with others I have lost along the way while working in Newberry County. I can just see all of them starting their own school district up there in heaven and looking down on us and letting us know we will have a place up there with them when our time comes too. One district, one team, one mission always!!! You will be missed and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Tonia Jeter: Mr. Bennett was always friendly and supportive. He truly cared about our district and all those who are part of our school system. He will be missed.

Kaitlynne Goodman: Mr. Bennett was always there to support all of the students of Newberry county school district whenever it was possible for him. We are forever grateful for the work he did and he will truly be missed by many. God bless his family and friends and all those whose lives were touched by such an amazing and intelligent man!

MissNikkita NowyouKnow: Mr Bennett was such a blessing to me and my daughter. He helped me so much to keep her on track and headed in the right direction while attending Newberry County Schools. He is well respected and a man of his words. When he can’t talk to you at the moment he always gave you a phone call to make sure everything was alright. He’s going to missed but he will forever be a legend in the Newberry County District School system

Carley Jeter Farmer: Mr. Bennett was a wonderful superintendent. He was always so supportive of every school and each teacher. He visited our (Whitmire) school often and was always so friendly with the students. The School District of Newberry County was blessed to have him for 10 years. He will be missed by all but certainly not forgotten.

Debra Rowe: He always had a minute for everyone. He was someone who had the ability to make everyone feel appreciated. He was an amazing man. I feel blessed to have known him.

Kelly Sue Jenkins Folk: Mr. Bennett was more than a superintendent. He truly cared for employees and took the time to get to know you, understand you and support you. He believed in all the students in Newberry County and students knew that. He was the true definition of a great leader and will be greatly missed.

Fran Guinn Rogers: Mr. Bennett was a man of great wisdom and stature. He genuinely believed in empowering others and imparting wisdom and opportunities for growth. While I am no longer with Newberry County Schools, I’m deeply saddened by his passing. I’m forever grateful for his belief in my leadership and spirit of unity for the school district. He will be missed tremendously, but leaves a great legacy.

Lori Bryan Ricard: Mr. Bennett was the type of leader who brought out the best in his employees. He made me feel special. He motivated me by getting to know me personally and always patting me on the back. Now if I can just be the type of teacher to my students that he so perfectly modeled for me.

April Bailey Peel: Mr. Bennett was a genuine superintendent that cared for all of the employees and students. He believed in everyone and expected the best of you. Mr. Bennett was a great mentor and always had something positive to say each time you saw him. He will be missed dearly.

Carol Lenderman Miner: He was a wonderful boss, a great mentor and friend. He will be missed terribly – my prayers and thoughts are with his family Frankie and children and his sister Mary.

Amy Peacock: Dr. Bennett was the nicest, most kind hearted man. My heart goes out to his wife & children in this difficult time. Newberry County School District has definitely suffered a major loss & he will be missed.

Diane Sutton Barfield: We knew Benny at Fort Mill High School. He was a great coach and such a positive role model for the students. Prayers for his family.

Dana Graham Long: There was no doubt that Mr. Bennett believed in the students and teachers of Newberry County School District. He was the epitome of a leader that always made those around him feel appreciated and supported. He was an asset to this community and will truly be missed.

Kimberly Karcanes Treadway: A true leader of an amazing school district I’m privileged to work for. Our loss is definitely Heaven’s gain. Prayers for my fellow employees, district office staff.

Nikki Perry Hughes: I met Mr. Bennett on several occasions and he always greeted me with a smile and talked with my son, Jack. I have attended many NHS football, basketball, and baseball games and he was at EVERY single game that I attended. I was always so impressed by his presence. He truly cared about these children and showed his support. I send my sincerest sympathy to his wife, children, and Newberry County School District family for the loss of such a great man.

Holly Lee Gilliam: He had a vision for education in Newberry and made students feel special and important. He celebrated their accomplishments with students and motivated them to be the best that they could be

Dave Rodgers: Heartbroken. Mr. Bennett was such a great man. He was professional with everyone and did so much for the school district. All three of my kids had the opportunity to meet him at some point and time and they are saddened by this news. I pray that God wraps his arms around Mr. Bennett’s family at this time. RIP sir you will truly be missed.

April Herring: I worked in Newberry County for the first 8 of my now 9 years of teaching. Mr. Bennett’s fearless and faith-filled leadership there paved the way to an amazing career in teaching for me, and left a path open that ultimately led me to Christ. One of the only negative things about leaving NCSD was that I wasn’t going to be under his leadership anymore. Many prayers go out to all the people he touched in his life.

Paula Andrews: He was a wonderful man with great moral fiber. He encouraged every child to do their best. Will miss his support of Whitmire Community School. Bless his family and give them strength as they deal with his death.

Danielle Rowe: When I heard of Mr. Bennett’s death my heart sank … He was such a wonderful and nice man. In talking with him, he always made you feel like you were the most important person at that moment in time. He always had a very gentle demeanor, yet was stern when it came to his work. He had a transparent and true passion for what he did. Anyone could see that by being around him. My prayers go out to the Bennett family during this time. He touched many, many lives and his legacy will always remain.

Frances McCartha Meetze: Mr. Bennett was a one-of-a-kind leader. He respected all of the teachers and worked hard for us. He cared so much for all of the students and made sure to support them in everything they did. He will truly be missed.

Nicole Williamson: Dr. Bennett was well known to many people always kind open minded and quick to handle any situation. He has helped my son change a few things in his life, and told him he can be whatever he wants to if he follows the right path. So, I want to thank you for the encouragement and staying with my son thought high school. Your life will truly live on in my sons Preston Dewalt heart. Words can’t express the hurt I feel but god has it all in control. To his family sorry for your lost, praying for strength and healing for his family.

Wendy Harriford Platt: Mr. Bennett remembered the names of the students he had seen on previous occasions whenever he visited Newberry Middle. He shook hands, gave high fives, and lots of encouragement. He was a giant among educators who humbly would take no credit unless it was for just being a man.

Wendall Leopard: I built the new administration office for Newberry school district. I met Mr. Bennett there. He went out of his way to introduce himself to us and was very cordial and friendly to us. He expressed gratitude for our work and seemed to like his new office. It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance and he had a dignified manner about him. A pleasure to have got to know him a little and I’m sure he will be missed by many.

Heath Eubanks: Such a class act. Coach B, you will be missed and I’m thankful that you were here in Clover to help us grow as young adults. No matter what was happening in our lives, you were always there to listen and give us advice. Rest easy my friend and coach

Asia Kelley: He was just the most awesome person you could ever meet. He always greeted people with a heart-felt smile and hug. He was a voice for all educators and students in the school district. He taught me so much about what leadership should look like. He was just special. As a teacher, I was always happy to see him at a school assembly, a game, or just at school. He will be missed. My prayers go out to his family, as well as the school district and the community.

Sarah Elizabeth Jaynes: Mr. Bennett was a hell of a guy. He immediately grabbed the attention of whatever room he entered, proactively worked with a group of students at our school on a regular basis to encourage them to stay out of trouble, and was a constant source of encouragement. Any time I had a meeting at the District Office he would make a point to pop in, and he even came to some of our Academic Bowl meets. The education-world needs more present and passionate people like him. He has left some big shoes to fill.

Debra H. Templin: We have truly lost a champion of children and teachers! I will always have fond memories of watching him be led to our school garden by students and him giving genuine attention to their excited explanations of various scientific experiments. Not once would he rush or hurry away. They and I knew… He cared!

Mary O’Dell: This was just one of those countless times Mr. Bennett showed his compassion and his support of our students and community: April 14th, 2016 soccer game NHS vs MCHS at our Relay for Life table I am among those who mourn the loss of this leader.

Theresa Halfacre: I served on several committees with Mr. Bennett. I found him consistently predictable: uniquely thoughtful and genuinely helpful. He was a quiet hero who never sought the spotlight. He sought it for his students, and then, stepped back and watched them shine.

Patricia M. Edwards is the publisher of The Newberry Observer and group publisher of The Union Times, The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel, all sister publications of The Newberry Observer. She can be reached via email at or you can drop by to see her anytime.

Patricia M. Edwards is the publisher of The Newberry Observer and group publisher of The Union Times, The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel, all sister publications of The Newberry Observer. She can be reached via email at or you can drop by to see her anytime.