Leon H. Bennett Jr., 66, of Vineyard Haven died at home on Saturday, March 15. Born August 17, 1936, in Worcester, he attended Boston College on a football scholarship and was an All-American and a sixth-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins football team. He declined the Redskins' offer and was graduated with a degree in business administration from Boston College. While he was in college, he was a member of the ROTC program, becoming a second lieutenant in the infantry for the U.S. Army Reserves.
Mr. Bennett moved to the Vineyard in 1972 with his first wife, Carol, from whom he was later divorced; she predeceased him in 1996. During his entire 31 years on the Vineyard, he was a respected member of a 12-step program in which he quietly but profoundly helped many Island residents with substance abuse problems. He also successfully ran two businesses on the Vineyard. He created Bennett Electric, now run by his sons, Bill and Leon 3rd. He and his second wife, Anne, started Vineyard Sweets, a handmade chocolate business, out of their home in 1992. Their many friends enjoyed the sampling stage of this business. After moving to Main street, their customers nicknamed the business the Get a Life Café. This Main street café had an eclectic and dedicated following.
It was at the café that you could find Mr. Bennett, his arms covered with tattoos, working at the grill or sitting on the patio with a coffee and a cigarette. He was always ready and willing, with a friendly hello, to sit and talk with you about anything you wished. Talking with Leon would almost always make you laugh, and you would leave him with your load having been lightened.
Mr. Bennett loved collecting guns and riding Harleys. Although politically conservative, he embodied the spirit of tolerance for all opinions.
In addition to his wife, Anne, he is survived by a brother, Steve Bennett of Indianapolis, Ind.; three sons, Bill Bennett of Chilmark, Leon H. Bennett 3rd and Greg Bennett of Vineyard Haven; a daughter, Laura Bennett of Vineyard Haven, and a granddaughter, Bella of Chilmark.
A private graveside service was held on Monday, March 17, at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven. All are welcome to attend a memorial service in June at a time to be announced. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hospice of Martha's Vineyard Inc., P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557. Arrangements are by the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs.