ForeverMissed
This memorial website is created in memory of our loved one, John Bennett, 55 years old, born on July 29, 1965, and passed away on March 26, 2021. 

The thing that mattered most to John was family. He lived vicariously through, and celebrated the milestones of, his siblings, cousins, aunts, uncle, nephews and nieces as if they were his own. He will be greatly missed.

In Memoriam
In honor of John's memory, we will be hosting a special event for the residents and staff at the assisted care living facility where he lived for the prior twelve years and a family celebration of life in Arkansas this summer.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to (1) TIRR Memorial Hermann (offering top-notch rehabilitation services for spinal cord injuries); or (2) Rescued Pets Movement (giving second chances to homeless pets in Houston).

Tributes are short messages commemorating John, or an expression of support to his closest family and friends. Leave your first tribute here, and others will follow.

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Recent Tributes
his Life

Obituary

John David Bennett passed away shortly after midnight Friday, March 26, 2021, from complications associated with the nearly 21 years he spent as a quadriplegic.

John was amazingly resilient. In the first few weeks after the car accident that resulted in his quadriplegia, the doctors weren't sure if he would ever breathe on his own or have any functionality neck down. However, he did begin breathing on his own and just enough functionality came back that, when coupled with John's determination and his fierce need to do things for himself, allowed him to live independently.  "Just enough functionality" was not a lot of functionality and one could argue whether it would have been enough for anyone else to live independently, but, when faced with a challenge, John set about overcoming that challenge with sheer will, some practice and inventing a tool to help him out.

John was passionate about movies and music. Even though writing didn't come easy to him (had minimal dexterity in his fingers and functionality in his arms), he kept a handwritten catalog of the nearly 800 movies and albums he owned. And, whether he was in his home or on the road in his wheelchair, he always had his headphones and speaker with him. He also had a sense of humor and went so far as to program an alarm to go off every Saturday evening so he wouldn't miss an episode of the Three Stooges playing on tv.

But, what mattered most to John, was his family. Every card, letter or photograph sent to him by a loved one was shared with those around him and then filed away for safekeeping. And, John prided himself on getting cards and gifts to his family on time, and would begin that process weeks before the date it needed to be mailed. He would spend hours over several days taking the public bus (or buses) to a particular store, navigating the often narrow aisles of the stores to select and purchase the gift, making it back home with the gift balanced on his lap, wrapping and packaging the gift, and then taking a trip, once he regained his strength, with the gift again balanced on his lap while he navigated the wheelchair ramp of the public buses, to the post office to have it mailed. When he was able to travel, John loved visiting his mother in Arizona and his sister in California.

John was a kind man and, just like his maternal grandfather, loved the challenge of taming the feral cats around his home. He came to call one scruffy, fluffy black kitten his own and named him Mr. Boots. Mr. Boots passed just a couple of weeks prior to John's passing.

The family wishes to express deep gratitude to the members of the community at the assisted living facility where John lived for the past 12 years, especially to the director, Mary, and employee, Bianca.

John will be truly missed by all who loved him.

Brother and Sister

Written by John's sister, Robin

At the hospital, the nurse asked me if John and I were really close growing up. I was taken aback by the question, so I answered without thinking, "No . . .  we took different paths." Immediately, I knew my answer was wrong. I should have said, "Yes. We followed each other around nearly everywhere."

Childhood Years

Our mom often told the story of John's first day of school. We were living in Denver, Colorado, and the school was just a couple of blocks from our home. I don't recall if John was walking to school alone (which would have been perfectly acceptable at that time) or if Mom was walking him to school, but she says that I started walking after him. That I, too, wanted to go to school. Generally this story was told to demonstrate that my love of school started really young, but, in light of our lives, this story better demonstrates the love I had for my big brother.

While our dad, who was in the U.S. Air Force, was stationed in Turkey, Mom was taking care of three kids and working full-time. John had some attention deficit problems and wasn't doing well in school, so Mom sent John to Arkansas to live with his biological dad.  Several months later, Mom and our dad divorced, and I was sent to my maternal grandparents for the summer. I loved spending time with my grandparents, whatever the reason, but I was most excited about this time because John was living just down the road from my grandparents, and I missed him.

John didn't want to continue living with his biological dad, but Mom didn't think she could handle him in her life at the time. Therefore, my grandparents offered to adopt John, and John agreed. We spent our summer days camping, helping our grandparents build their retirement home and exploring the Ozarks. The summer was coming to an end, and I would be leaving John. I can't recall the conversations John and I had, but we agreed that I, too, would be adopted by our grandparents and continue living with them and John.

My mom would visit every month, and I missed her dearly. So, on one of those visits, I sneaked a note into her suitcase, asking to come live with her. When she next visited, I remember John and I huddled at the top of the stairs to our rooms, listening to the adults speak below. I hadn't told John I wanted to leave, and he felt betrayed and scared/sad that I would go without him. But, the adults resolved that both John and I would go live with our mom in Kansas City.

Young Adult Years

The teen years intervened. I did my thing - excelling at school and getting accepted at, then attending, Northwestern University, and John did his thing - flunking at school and stealing stereos out of unoccupied, parked cars, which landed him in prison for a few years.

When John was released, I was living in Chicago, and I agreed that he could come live with me until he got settled. And, he did for a few weeks. He kept his room meticulous and, every morning, he would shower, put on nice slacks, a button down and stiff dress shoes, and spend the day walking the streets of Chicago looking for a job. His resilience showed even then. He finally did get a job as an auto mechanic and moved into an apartment with our younger brother, who moved to Chicago to be with John.

We couldn't make it home to family that first Thanksgiving together. Instead, our mom sent a care package with canned ham and other shelf-stable food items and we met at my apartment for our Thanksgiving meal. The three of us then headed to a local bar and just hung out. It was a really good holiday.

Soon after, I moved to Houston for a change of scenery and to be around our mom. Within a few months, John and our younger brother also moved to Houston and we were all living within a few blocks of one another, but young adult life intervened. and we didn't see each other very often. John and our younger brother started driving long-haul trucks until John discovered the pull of drugs. For his own emotional health, my younger brother went his own way and John took to the streets. Meanwhile, I moved to California, found a great career and got married.

Adulthood

I was nearing the end of my sabbatical - just two weeks left - and had planned on spending that time researching the health of coral reefs in Puerto Rico. I had just arrived in Puerto Rico and was going through my check-out dive, when I got a call that John had been in an accident and I should fly to Houston. The accident resulted in John becoming a quadriplegic at the age of 35.

During those first few weeks -- thanks to a lot of airline miles that I had saved up and a friend who allowed me to stay in her home in Houston -- I was able to spend a lot of time with John in the hospital.

The story that stands out the most for me, and one of the stories that I think best describes who John was, is when I accompanied him to his first occupational therapy session. John and I sat on one side of table. Next to us was the occupational therapist and across was a woman who might have been a few years younger than John who was also a quadriplegic. As the occupational therapist showed John and this young woman the adaptive tools for eating and drinking, John tried everything and made jokes about his failures, about current events, and whatever struck his mind. He dribbled. He spilled. He accidentally flipped things across the room. He was game for the challenge – it was just something that needed to be done. The young woman across from him tried nothing, said nothing. She was so obviously in a bad, emotional place.

I firmly believe that John's attitude was a result of, one, him having faced so many challenges in his life that he had had the opportunity to practice getting up from falling down over and over and over. This was just another challenge. Two, John was with family again. He had family members asking him how he was doing, hanging out with him, caring for him. And, after being on the streets for a few years, this meant the world to him. He referred to his time after his accident as his second chance, a bonus.

For the 21 years John was a quadriplegic, we texted and called one another. In the years after our mother's death, John would visit me in California, and my family would visit him in Houston. He took amazing pride in my accomplishments and in my children. But, life happens so quickly, especially with three children and a legal career, and the visits stopped. John could no longer travel easily and it became more difficult to travel to him because of our active life. I suppose when someone dies, the natural reaction is to wish you had had more time to ensure they knew deep, deep inside that you loved them to the heavens and back, and I wish we had had one more visit to him.

Goodbye

As I said goodbye to John the night he passed, I told him how much I loved him, how much I really liked him, and how so very proud I was of him. John made some bad decisions as a young man, but we are so much more than the mistakes we make. John was strong and resilient in his life, but he was also kind, thoughtful, funny and oh so friendly. He approached life with such joy and I will always have an image of him 'racing' his wheelchair around the city of Houston.

John never gave up, but his body was tired from having worked so hard for so many years. I am comforted in picturing John free of physical pain and  fully embraced with all the love that exists in heaven, but my world is a little dimmer without him.
Recent stories

Charles Lee Voyles Remembers

Shared by Charles Voyles on April 7, 2021
John was just a little over one year old when I married his mother in September’s 1966. I only knew him as Johnny and that is what the entire family called him, Johnny only new one Dad for 11 years and that was me, yes he knew that he had a biological father, but that was not his Dad. Johnny and I had a very close relationship and I loved him as much as any father could love a son. Both of our worlds changed dramatically in 1977 when I was serving an unaccompanied Air Force tour of duty in the country of Turkey. Johnny's mother filed for divorce in December 1977 and had given custody of Johnny to his biological father. One of the worst moments in my life was when I came home on emergency leave to participate in the divorce proceedings and Johnny called me to come pick him up because he wanted to come home. I was helpless and Johnny couldn't understand why his Dad couldn’t come and get him. Our lives were never the same after this event. The memories of our 11 years together will always be in my mind and heart. I loved him dearly.

Johnny was a natural story teller, he could make up and tell long stories without even stopping and thinking about what he was going to say next. When he was about 8 years old, we lived in Denver Colorado and we went back home to Wynne Arkansas to visit our parents and grandparents quite often. On one of our trips back home, we left Denver about 7 PM on a Friday night and Johnny’s mother decided that she would ride in the back seat with our other two children Robin and Chris, his mother let Johnny ride shot-gun with me. Johnny sat in the front seat all night and told me story after story until about 3 AM the next day. Johnny didn’t do well in school due to him being hyperactive, we had him tested and the doctor diagnosed as him being hyperactive, he was given medicine for his condition and the medicine made him lazy and unproductive. Although he didn’t do well in school, he was extremely intelligent and could accomplish things that were incredibly difficult.