Dick Bennett’s impact on the Delaware community has not been forgotten since his passing in 2015, and now, his legacy is set to be carried forward for years to come. This Sunday, at 1 p.m., a small dedication ceremony will be held at the city park on Rheem Street to officially rename the park — formerly Eastside Park — in Bennett’s honor.
Among those expected to be in attendance at the dedication are Bennett’s three sons, as well as Parks and Recreation Director Ted Miller.
A sign designating the grounds as Bennett Park was installed in August ahead of the ceremony, which had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A ceremony couldn’t take place in 2020 because of the pandemic but we are looking forward to Eastside Park officially becoming Bennett Park on Sunday and recognizing one of Delaware’s and the east side’s own,” Delaware Community Affairs Coordinator Lee Yoakum told The Gazette.
Sunday’s ceremony and park dedication will wrap up a five-year initiative led by a former colleague of Bennett, Pat Yankie, who spearheaded the effort to get Bennett’s name memorialized in Bennett’s beloved east side. Yankie said he was driven to get the park renamed following Bennett’s funeral services, which included a number of stories shared by people who had been positively impacted by Bennett.
“I just remember a lot of retired officers, veterans, Boy Scouts, and people in general who showed up (at the funeral) talking about him. I just thought there has to be more we can do to remember and honor this man,” Yankie said.
Bennett, who lived directly across from the park on Kurrley Street, served as a member of the committee that pushed for the park’s formation in 1983. “I’m thinking, ‘He really worked hard to establish that east side park. It would be kind of a nice tribute to name it after him,’” Yankie said.
Delaware’s Parks and Recreations board recommended renaming the park in Bennett’s honor in June of 2017 after the city established a formal policy for naming parks.
Bennett served as a police officer in the Delaware Police Department for more than 20 years. He served as one of the training officers in Delaware when Yankie arrived in Delaware fresh out of the police academy. Yankie said Bennett was a guy that, if the opportunity came about to ride with him, it wasn’t something to be missed.
Yankie, now a bailiff at the Delaware Municipal Court after a 33-year career in the police department, added of Bennett’s career in law enforcement, “He was doing community policing before that was probably even a term.”
Prior to his law enforcement career, Bennett served eight years in the United States Air Force. He was also a Boy Scouts leader, and Yankie said having many of his scouts use the grounds while working towards badges played a significant role in the push to make the park happen. “He always said the kids on the east side need a park, too, and it’s a nice park,” Yankie said.
Asked what he thinks Bennett would have to say about the park dedication, Yankie laughed before suggesting Bennett, in all of his modesty and good-hearted nature, would probably downplay making the park about him. However, Yankie said he knows Bennett would be proud to know the kids on Delaware’s east side still have a place to have their fun.
Yankie shared an anecdote about the number of people he has talked to since beginning the initiative, and the stories they have told about Bennett’s impact on their individual lives.
“It’s amazing with someone like that, how many lives they touched. You get through the ripples of time and people are still talking about him,” he said.
Yankie went on to say, “It’s a nice tribute to a man who was certainly a community leader over there (on the east side).”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.