Longtime Seaford fire official, educator Bennett dies

SEAFORD — Carlton Bryan “Spuck” Bennett wore many hats during his life: educator, businessman, family man and member of the Seaford community and volunteer fire service.

Mr. Bennett, a 63-year member of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department and a man who brought the Harley-Davidson motorcycle world to Seaford, passed away Wednesday. He was 90.

A science teacher, Mr. Bennett had many business ventures and, as a member of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department, served in numerous capacities, including chief and president.

C. Bryan “Spuck” Bennett

State Rep. Danny Short has many fond memories of Mr. Bennett. The Bennett and Short families were very close. In fact, Mr. Bennett and Rep. Short’s father, Wesley, partnered in their Seaford Harley-Davidson venture in 1976 that remained a Western Sussex staple for several decades.

“They were the Pine Street boys and we were the Bradford Street boys,” said Rep. Short.

“Growing up as a kid I actually had Spuck as a teacher in school. He was my biology teacher. I knew him going through school and obviously my dad and he were buddies because they were in the fire department together. Back in that particular time frame, the Bennett boys and the Short boys would be at the firehouse together. Sometimes we would go with our dads to the firehouse when we were young kids. We’d either stay at the firehouse or sometimes we’d end up at the scene in the back of the rescue truck, just watching through that little window. Those were the days.”

Seaford resident Michael Vincent first met Mr. Bennett as his teacher.

“I did pass. Not with an ‘A,’ but I did pass,” said Mr. Vincent.

“The thing about Spuck, is no matter what the situation was, he was always unflustered. He didn’t let things bother him,” said Mr. Vincent.

“And I am going to say this with a smile; maybe by being a schoolteacher and raising five kids of your own, maybe that makes you somewhat ‘unflusterable.’ He was pretty much even-keeled. It was always the same Spuck — mild mannered. You knew who you were dealing with and you trusted him.”

Fire service

In addition to his many roles with Seaford Volunteer Fire Department, Mr. Bennett served at county and state levels and was appointed several times as the state fire commissioner.

When Mr. Short became Seaford fire chief, he recalls Mr. Bennett’s advice.

“One of the things he told me, “As chief, if everybody is happy, you’re probably not doing a good job. And that was it. He turned around and walked away. I was like, ‘OK what does that mean?’ I thought about it … but if you just go along to get along then maybe you’re not doing all the things you ought to do.”

As a fire service rookie, Rep. Short would not always hear the siren and thus would sometimes show up late on calls.

“We didn’t have pagers back then. Spuck says, ‘I’ll get you an alarm system.’ And he just kind of walked away,” said Rep. Short. “So, the fire whistle late one night went off. The phone rang … and I pick up the phone.”

On the other end of the phone line was Mr. Bennett’s wife, Lib. “And Lib says, ‘You better get your (butt) up to the firehouse. There’s a fire,” said Rep. Short. “That happened for months. Spuck set it up for new guys.”

Mr. Bennett was ascending the officer ladder when Mr. Vincent joined the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department.

“He was 1st Assistant Chief when I got in. Then in a couple years he became the chief. I served under Spuck,” said Mr. Vincent, noting Mr. Bennett’s role in the state’s passage of the State Fire Chief’s Law that gives the chief or highest ranking officer in charge at the scene total authority.

Within the SVFD, Mr. Bennett held positions of president and chief, which Rep. Short says “is unusual. Usually, you go one way or the other. You go through the administrative line, or you go through the tactical line, which is the firefighting line. He led the department in both capacities.”

Business ventures

In the mid-1970s, a retired state police detective and a schoolteacher teamed to bring “Hogs” to Western Sussex County.

“Two unlikely characters who started a motorcycle business. Who would have thought?” said Rep. Short. “My dad was a motorcycle rider but Spuck wasn’t. I don’t know that he ever rode, to be honest. I remember him in a three-wheel one time. But I don’t think he rode.”

In the community, Mr. Bennett ran the community pool. He also oversaw a grass-cutting crew, providing part-time summer jobs for high school students/athletes. One of the jobs was cutting grass at Odd Fellows Cemetery. “Which was a lot of grass to cut,” said Mr. Vincent.

Service to all

Mr. Bennett was a Korean War veteran, proudly serving in the United States Marine Corps at the rank of sergeant.

Not only was he a teacher in the Seaford School District, he also served as a member of the Seaford School Board, including board president.

Mr. Bennett was a longtime member of the Seaford Downtown Association, Greater Seaford Chamber of Commerce, BEDCO (Blades Economic Development corporation), Nanticoke Yacht Club and Seaford Historical Society. He was a past member of the Eastern Harley-Davidson Dealers Association and a lifetime member of H.O.G. Mr. Bennett was the owner of Harley-Davidson of Seaford, Ocean City and Rehoboth Beach.

“He didn’t ask anybody for any kudos. He didn’t ask anybody for proclamations,” said Rep. Short.

“He helped people around town because it was the right thing to do. He was not looking for accolades. I really believe he lived his life treating people like he would want to be treated by them,” said Mr. Vincent. “Spuck was somebody in my opinion who lived his life that he did unto others as he would want you to do unto him. And that to me is a very high compliment to anybody. That I think is who Spuck Bennett was.”

A memorial service will be held on Monday at 6 p.m. at St. John’s United Methodist Church, 300 N. Pine St., Seaford. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance will be limited.

Additional seating and live streaming will be provided at the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department, 302 E. King St. All attending will be required to wear a face covering or mask and practice social distancing.

Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Mr. Bennett’s memory to Spuck & Lib Bennett Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 238, Seaford, DE 19973 or the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 87, Seaford, DE 19973.