Lt. Cmdr. James Nelson Bennett, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired), age 77, a resident of Mary Esther, Fla., went to be with the Lord on Aug. 29, 2013, in Mary Esther. Born Aug. 20, 1936, in Bainbridge, Ga., to Dallas and Etta Lee Bennett, he grew up in Attapulgus, Ga., and moved with his family to Ft. Myers, Fla., in 1951.
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After graduation from Ft. Myers High School in 1954, he attended Stetson University in Deland, Fla., for one and half years and in June 1957 joined the U.S. Navy. In 1958 he married Kay Hickman of Ft. Myers, who he met and fell in love with at Riverside Baptist Church. He was trained as an Aviation Metalsmith and served at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, Pensacola, Fla., and Miramar, Calif., in VF Squadron aboard the USS Hancock during the Viet Nam War. Desiring a college education he left the Navy in 1965 to attend the University of Florida graduating with a B.S. degree in 1969 and M.Ed. in 1970. During his college years he joined the U.S. Navy Reserve and upon graduation became a commissioned officer in the USNR receiving the rank of lieutenant junior grade. Through his reserve years, he served with the Reserve Units in Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Va., Charlotte, N.C., Roanoke, Va., Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., and CENTCOM at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla. In 1989 he retired with the rank of lieutenant commander as an Intelligence Officer.
After graduating from University of Florida, he pursued a career as a Mathematics Professor, first in Virginia at New River Community College in Dublin, Va., for 12 years; then at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa for 21 years, retiring in 2003. While in Virginia, James became a licensed homebuilder, building several dozen custom homes and commercial buildings. He was always active in a Baptist Church wherever he lived, serving as a deacon and men's Bible class teacher.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Kay Hickman Bennett of Mary Esther; daughters, Beverly Gravley and her husband Leon of Draper, Va.; granddaughters, Ginger Blevins and Sandi Daniels of Wythville, Va.; and LeAnn Barnes of Dublin. Sandra Pitman and husband Jeffrey of Mary Esther; granddaughter, LeAnna Pitman and grandson, Aaron and wife Jessica Pitman, of Mary Esther; brothers, Earl Bennett, wife Karen of North Ft. Myers, Fla., and Bernard Bennett, wife Penny of Ft. Myers; also many cousins, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dallas and Etta Lee Bennett; and grandparents, David and Ella Belle Strickland.
The family will receive friends on Sept. 3, 2013, beginning at 9 a.m., at Calvary Baptist Church, 529 Clifford St., Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547, with a funeral service beginning at 10 a.m. Pastor Emeritus Joe Plott of First Baptist Church of Mary Esther will be officiating. Pall Bearers will be Earl Bennett, Bernard Bennett, Leon Gravley, Jeff Pitman, Aaron Pitman, Brian Smith and Marty Bennett. Interment will follow at Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola Naval Air Station, at 2 p.m., the same day.
Memorial donations may be made to the missions program at Calvary Baptist Church, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Davis-Watkins Funeral Home of Fort Walton Beach. To share memories, express condolences and sign the guestbook, please visit www.daviswatkins.com.
Davis Watkins Funeral Home
1326 Lewis Turner Boulevard Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Sept. 1 to Sept. 3, 2013