By Sam Jack
Many Conway Springs residents knew Lawrence Bennett, who died at 94 on June 23. He was a mainstay of Main Street, working there, in one office or another, for 70 straight years.
“He served in the Navy during World War II, got out, and was pretty much on Main Street until he was over 90 years old, either at the bank (First National Bank of Conway Springs, since renamed Conway Bank), or in this insurance agency – until just about four years ago, when he had a stroke,” said son Brad Bennett, who worked alongside his father at the Bennett Agency for 22 years. “He loved Conway, and was involved in about everything you could be involved in in a small town.”
A quote from Thomas Jefferson was read at Lawrence’s funeral: “It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.” Brad said that epitomized his father, who in addition to long and active involvements in most of Conway Springs’ civic and community groups, was a stalwart supporter of local youth sports and activities, and of his children and grandchildren’s endeavors in particular.
“He went to every high school football game and track event for 70-some years. Probably five or six years ago, the booster club honored him for all his support – over everybody’s memory of their lifetime,” Brad said. “That impacts young people.”
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Lawrence was a patriot, son Bill Bennett said. He was an original crew member on the U.S.S. Midway – a plank owner – and at the time of his service, the Midway was the largest ship in the world.
“He talked a lot about his time on the ship, which had over 4,000 men. It was like a floating city,” Bill said. “About 10 years ago, my youngest son took him out to San Diego, where the Midway has been a museum since 1992. He was the first plank-holder to ever visit since it had become a museum. They rolled out the red carpet, and he really enjoyed himself.”
Lawrence led Memorial Day ceremonies at the Conway Springs Cemetery for more than 30 years.
Grandson Marc Bennett, Sedgwick County’s District Attorney, said that Lawrence showed what it means to be dedicated to community, and family.
“He and my grandmother (Leila Bennett) came to my daughter’s dance recitals, and we always joked they arrived an hour early, sitting in the front row,” Marc said. “He was just totally invested in his family and all of our activities.”
Lawrence was a skilled musician who learned to sing and play piano by ear.
“He did I don’t know how many funerals and weddings, playing by ear,” Brad said. “That’s where we got our music background from. Then the Bennett Brothers bluegrass group played for 25 to 30 years, and he attended every concert that we did in a three- or four-state area.”
Another lifelong passion of Lawrence’s was baseball.
“He coached, probably, more baseball games than the average person has seen in their life,” Bill said. “He played until he was well into his 20s – probably even 30s – and practically every boy who grew up in Conway Springs over a period of 40 years played on a team that he coached.”
Bill said his father had a strong philosophy and outlook that informed his entire life.
“He never held a grudge. He never looked back,” Bill said. “I think he figured, after the war, everything in life was a bonus. Even in the last few months and weeks of his life, it was never, ‘Woe is me.’ It was just, ‘Look forward to things, and never begrudge anybody.’ He was about the most positive guy I ever knew.”