FARMINGTON — Although Charles “Charlie” Bennett may have served in the Army nearly 50 years ago, “he was still serving his country with pride until the day he died,” veteran Donald Simoneau of Fayette said.

The community is remembering Bennett who passed unexpectedly on Nov. 25 in Florida at the age of 69.

“He came home from Vietnam loving his country, loving his flag. He was an inspiration to everyone,” Simoneau said.

Bennett’s family knows what a role he played in so many events held here in Farmington and Augusta, events that remembered and supported veterans.

“Dad held all veterans and all military persons with the utmost respect,” daughter Donna Bennett said. “To so many in our community, he was a hero but to us he was so much more — our Dad, a Papa to 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, and a loving husband to our Mom (Carol).”

He also leaves a sister, Patricia Thomas of Florida, one he was very fond of, she said.

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Bennett was born in Rhode Island and attended schools in Temple and Farmington before serving in the Army from 1967-72.

“He was wounded by a mortar shell in Laos but because we never went into the country, Charlie never got his Purple Heart,”  state Senator Thomas Saviello of Wilton said. 

Bennett was instrumental in helping Saviello develop a local veteran recognition program. It was the first time that many Vietnam veterans had heard anyone welcome them home and thank them for their service, he said.

“We played a ‘gotcha’ game,” Saviello said. “At the end of one emotional recognition, Charlie gave me a certificate of thanks for all that I had done. I lost it.” 

In turn, Saviello said “gotcha” when Bennett received a high school diploma. Bennett thought he was going to a school board meeting in 2014 to talk about a flag ceremony. Instead, his family and American Legion members were there to see Superintendent Tom Ward present him with a diploma, one he missed getting when he went in to the service.

“There was no man more dedicated to veterans and helping veterans out,” Saviello said.

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Whether the American Legion was having a car wash, needed a color guard or was sponsoring a flag program in schools to teach youngsters about flag etiquette, Charlie was the one to organize it. 

“He was so proud of the flag program in the schools,” he said.

When a student at the University of Maine at Farmington did a social experiment to see how people responded to the flag by placing it on the floor in 2008, Bennett did everything he could to protect the sanctity of the flag. He even sat on it to protect it. He protected it with everything he knew how, Saviello said.

Bennett helped Simoneau in a quest to change state law and allow flags to be placed on veteran graves in state-owned cemeteries.

“He was with me every step of the way,” Simoneau said. 

Bennett helped oversee placement of flags at the Mt. Vernon Cemetery in Augusta for Memorial Day under the Grave Flag Program. He got it done and did it right, he said.

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Bennett gave out small American flags from the back of his truck in downtown Farmington for years.

Bennett left his family with many memories.

“One of the greatest memories for all of us was a few years ago when he decided, all on his own, that the grandkids should have Santa at our Christmas Eve get-together. So as a surprise, Santa appeared and passed out their gifts. We will surely miss Santa this year,” Donna Bennett said.

“Dad was a hard man when he felt he needed to be. But he loved just as hard,” daughter Deanna Trundy said. “We butted heads a lot and even when I drove him crazy I knew deep down he had so much love for me. And we can all feel comfort in knowing that Dad knew he was loved by us all.”

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Charles Bennett (File photo)

Charles Bennett (Facebook photo)

Charles Bennett helps students at Cape Cod Hill School learn to fold the American flag in September. Roderick Crosby American Legion Post #28 in Farmington has sponsored the flag etiquette program in local schools for several years. (File photo)


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