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Michael M. BennettAugust 27, 1943 ~ December 4, 2017 (age 74)
Michael Middleton Bennett of Grand Rapids passed away unexpectedly Dec. 4, 2017, at the age of 74. He will be remembered as a prominent businessman, accomplished musician, benefactor of the arts, respected teacher, ardent golfer, and, most importantly, a loving husband, a selfless father, and a good friend. Born to Floyd and Thelma Bennett in Jackson, Tenn., and raised in Edina, Minn., he graduated from Edina High School, where he met the love of his life, Janet Leck, to whom he was married 53 years, and co-founded the teenage jazz combo The Dixieland Ramblers, with whom he would play on and off for the next half-century. He earned a degree at MacPhail College of Music in Minneapolis and then pursued graduate studies in clarinet performance at Indiana University. Recently married and opting to forgo the life of a professional musician, Mike began a 40-year career in the musical instrument business, starting in sales and marketing at manufacturers throughout the Midwest before becoming a vice president of Yamaha Corp. of America, serving as general manager of the company’s band and orchestral division in Grand Rapids for 21 years. It was at Yamaha where Mike made a difference in the lives of so many with whom he worked and where he became a noted and respected figure in the music industry. It also was during this time when he effectively re-launched his career as a performer. What was intended to be a one-night reunion of The Dixieland Ramblers in New Orleans evolved into a 20-year run that included numerous CD releases, performances nationwide, and a tour of Japan. As a result, Mike also found himself performing on occasion with the internationally known Dukes of Dixieland. He also renewed his love for chamber music, forming the longstanding trio Ma Non Troppo, which performed regularly right up until his untimely passing. In the mid-2000s, Mike’s business career came full circle when he briefly served as president of LeBlanc Inc., the Kenosha, Wis., woodwind manufacturer with whom he started his career in the mid-1960s. He soon retired from the industry and returned to Grand Rapids to play clarinet with Ma Non Troppo, various jazz combos, and musical theater organizations. A member of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 56, he also had a full teaching schedule, giving private lessons to clarinetists of all ages and abilities. In recent years, Mike scaled back on teaching to get back into sales, this time working at a Jos. A Bank clothing store. A week before his untimely passing, Mike was the top seller at the store. He derived great satisfaction from handling customers and he was particularly adept at working with people. He also possessed the leadership skills necessary to serve on the boards of many music business associations. He served 18 years on the board of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra as well as helped fund numerous symphony events. Mike was a staunch advocate for music in education, once meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Education and leading a delegation to Congress. He also was a onetime president of what could be called his home away from home, Blythefield Country Club, where he pursued his greatest love outside of family and music: golf. In addition to making dozens of lifelong friends at Blythefield and playing an untold number of rounds on its course, Mike was extremely active in the stewardship of the club and, in recent years, enjoyed volunteering his time to the LPGA tournament held annually at Blythefield. Along with his wife, Mike was a social creature, always involved, always on the move. Still, he found time to be a voracious reader, especially of crime, detective, and spy fiction. A casual sports fan, he was a lifelong supporter of the Minnesota Vikings, and in his retirement years, he dug into baseball, closely following the Minnesota Twins. During college basketball season, he enjoyed watching the Indiana Hoosiers. A fan of movies, he was a devotee of westerns and James Bond films. An excellent gin rummy player, Mike cherished his time playing the occasional round of canasta after dinner with his family. He is survived by his loving wife, Janet (Leck) Bennett; his son Jay Bennett and wife Laura Hahnefeld of Phoenix; and his daughter Peggy Bennett and husband Charlie Vonk of Grand Rapids and Charlie’s sons Garrett and Gavin. A visitation will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at Metcalf & Jonkhoff Funeral Service. A memorial service will take place at 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church, 7495 Cascade Road SE. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, 300 Ottawa NW Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, or the Evans Scholars Foundation, 1 Briar Road, Golf, IL 60029.
Grand Rapids Symphony
300 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids MI 49503
1 Briar Road, Golf IL 60029-0301