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Community grateful for late leader’s contributions

Ga. 400 interchange named for Bennett

POSTED: June 21, 2013 12:31 a.m.
Jennifer Sami/

Bill Self, left, chats with David Bennett and Jean Brannon on Wednesday during a celebration to mark the designation of the Ga. 400 and Hwy. 141 intersection as the William Everett Bennett Memorial Interchange.

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Every morning, William Everett Bennett brought his wife a glass of orange juice in bed.

For 25 years, he never missed a Rotary Club meeting, and he was the driving force behind what has become Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

There are many stories that can be told about Bennett and his service to Forsyth County.

Those stories, his legacy, volunteerism, philanthropy and advocacy for the community were all celebrated Wednesday, as more than 200 friends and family members gathered at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center to celebrate the designation of the Ga. 400 and Hwy. 141 intersection in his memory.

“I was blown away with the crowd. I thought it was just a marvelous turnout,” said Bennett’s widow, Teresa. “I was humbled with it and so thankful that many people would honor him ... I’m so proud of him.

“I think of him all the time anyway, but just to know that other people will see that sign, I’m just humbled.”

Four signs now designate the William Everett Bennett Memorial Interchange.

“The great thing about this is it was so easy because it was so good,” said District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, who authored the resolution creating the dedication. “Nobody could find any reason not to support this and I’m so proud we were able to do this.”

After the unveiling of the signs, Bennett’s son David offered some memories of his father, who he called the dictionary definition of a Southern gentleman.

“Dad loved his family and he always made time for everything that we did,” he said. “He always made time to do it, even if he didn’t have the time.”

William Self, retired pastor at Johns Creek Baptist Church also spoke about Bennett’s dedication to the community through Rotary and church.

“He had sort of a quiet dignity about him that caused him to ultimately be a leader,” Self said. “I think it’s significant that this particular memorial ... is on Ga. 400, at an interchange that opens up to the world.

“We’re not memorializing a fence with his name on it. We’re not putting up a barrier with his name on it, but we’re opening up a highway.”

The church’s current pastor, the Rev. Shaun King, also said the signs were symbols for how Bennett lived his life for others, something “worth navigating their own lives by.”

“Every time you pass by this interchange and you see the name, ask yourself, as I will ask myself, ‘Have I ordered my life in such a way that others would find direction by it?’ What a gift and blessing he will be, continuing for all of us,” King said.

Perhaps Bennett’s greatest gift to the community was his work helping to establish what is now Northside Hospital-Forsyth. Hospital Administrator Lynn Jackson spoke about Bennett, who she called a mentor, friend, father figure and role model.

“I miss him every day and I’m encouraged, though, by his legacies,” she said. “Through his volunteerism, his philanthropy, he was an individual who had a strong commitment to leadership.

“He strengthened our community.”

Jackson noted that Bennett was a champion of the initiative to purchase the land where the hospital sits, just off Ga. 400 and Hwy. 20.

Without his work, she said, there would not be 245 beds, an emergency room that sees 57,000 people annually, 1,900 employees or thousands of births each year at the hospital.

She said the quiet leader spoke up when his voice needed to be heard, particularly one day when he pounded his fists on the table to make a point.

“Today, I practically live in the house that Everett built and we’re all better and generations to come will be better because he chose to pound that fist, just once, on our behalf,” she said. “His footprint will be hard to follow.”

 

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