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Obituary: Harold H. Bennett

Published: Friday, Dec. 3 1999 12:00 a.m. MST

Harold Harper Bennett, one of the twentieth century's great souls, died on the morning of December 1, 1999, at the age of 99.

Born September 20, 1900, in Salt Lake City, Utah, he was the second son of John Foster Bennett and Rosetta Elizabeth Wallace. He grew up in the Avenues district, attending Lowell School and LDSU High School, and gaining a reputation as a tennis player, a singer, an expert hay stacker, and an artist. In the spring of 1917, he was buried alive while digging clay for tennis courts at the high school. The boy next to him was killed but he escaped with a severely broken nose. Forever crooked, that nose became his signature feature.Before and after his LDS Church mission to England, he attended the University of Utah, earning a B.A. in Commerce and Finance in 1925. At the university, he served as business manager and editor of both The Pen and The Utah Chronicle. In the offices of The Pen, late in 1917, he began to court Emily Higgs. Seven years later, on August 21, 1924, they were married in Salt Lake City.

In 1925, Harold and Emily traveled to England, where he studied Economics and Political Science at the University of London. In England, he also studied music with F.C. Field-Hyde. During this interval, he mastered the bass solos in The Messiah, which he performed many times in later years.

Returning to Utah in 1926, with the first of their eight children, the Bennetts established home and career, devoting themselves to family, church, and community service.

He went to work at ZCMI in September of that year as an accountant at Zion's Wholesale Grocery. Over the subsequent 47 years, he held many titles including controller, secretary, treasurer, and general manager. He was named president in 1958, the first time in 75 years that role had been filled by someone who was not also president of the LDS Church.

During his long tenure, ZCMI grew from one store to six. He moved the organization to the branch store concept at a critical point in its history. Active in several trade associations, he served as president of the National Retail Merchants Association (NRMA), conducted the Second International Meeting of Retailers in Dublin, Ireland, and was a lifetime member of the NRMA board. He received numerous awards including the NRMA's Gold Medal Award for "Distinguished Service to the Craft," membership in the Utah National Guard's Honorary Colonel Corps, and a University of Utah Distinguished Alumni Award.

He retired from ZCMI in 1973, remaining on the board of directors for a few more years. Apart from ZCMI, he served as trustee of the Bennett Association, trustee of the National Committee for Economic Development, and as a member of several boards of directors including Zions Bank, Deseret Book, and LDS Hospital.

Music was his great avocation. He sang many times as a soloist with the Salt Lake Oratorio Society, with the Tabernacle Choir, with the Utah Symphony, and in numerous other contexts. His repertoire (apart from The Messiah) included Haydn's The Creation, Mendelsohn's The Christus and Elijah, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony, Verdi's Requiem, Robertson's Book of Mormon Oratorio, and the role of Jesus in Bach's St. Matthew Passion. From 1932 to 1943, he directed the Annual Christmas Concert of the Choral Society of ZCMI in Memory Grove. Many times, he sang solos on the "Sunday Evening on Temple Square" radio broadcasts, including a series of "Twelve Hymns of the Restoration" recorded in 1953. His grandchildren cherish the Christopher Robin songs he sang for them.

He also enjoyed racquet sports, swimming, boating, and in later years, walking. He is probably the only man to have won Utah state championships in tennis, badminton, and squash racquets.

His church work spanned the century and included serving on the Liberty and Bonneville Stake High Councils for over 37 years, as a member of the General Finance Committee of the Church, and as a Bonneville Stake Patriarch for more than 25 years.

His devotion to his wife during their 60 plus years of marriage inspired all who saw it. Together they traveled the world, both for his profession and for her work in the general presidency of the LDS Church's YWMIA, but they were equally happy sitting at home together, reading, planning, and discussing the events of the day.

He offered strength and support to everyone in his circle. His family finds comfort in his example of integrity, perseverance, courage in the face of adversity, and dedication to core principles. His wit, wisdom, and dry malapropisms will be sorely missed.

He is survived by seven of his eight children and their spouses, all living in the Salt Lake City area: John H. Bennett; Mary Elen and W. Dean Belnap, Michael J. and Jan H. Bennett, Rose B. Jenkins, Ann B. and David Lowden, Peter H. and Rebecca W. Bennett, Nathan B. Winters, and Dr. Stephen H. and Susan Bennett. These children brought him 208 family members: 47 grandchildren and 37 spouses, 108 great-grandchildren and five spouses, and four great-great-grandchildren. His wife, his daughter Susan, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, two brothers, and two sisters preceded him in death.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 4, 1999, at 12 noon in the Bonneville Stake Center, 1535 East Bonneview Drive. Friends and family may call at Larkin Mortuary, 260 East South Temple, on Friday, 6

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