ForeverMissed
ROBERT COBB BENNETT (1941-2021)

Robert Cobb Bennett died peacefully in his sleep on April 26th, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. He led a life that took him from coastal Maine to the wide skies of the American West, guided by a powerful intellect and adventurous spirit. He was a beloved philosophy professor and devout Catholic, a fond father and grandfather, a quick wit and a legendary cook. He will be missed.

Robert, known affectionately as “Pops,” “Grandpa Bennett,” and “Bob,” was born on June 10th, 1941, on the tiny island of Vinalhaven, Maine, to Dorothy Cobb Bennett and Ralph Clarence Bennett. The family had a long history in Downeast Maine. Clarence was a legendary lobster fisherman on the island, and Dorothy wrote poetry about nature and the Maine coast. Robert’s grandparents included a lighthouse keeper of Heron Neck Light, whose wife Carrie taught movie stars to play bridge and canasta during the filming of the 1948 film “Deep Waters.” On the Cobb side of the family, his grandfather Alvin was a dairy farmer who lived with the Bennetts when Bob was a boy, and imparted his care and love for animals to his grandson.

Bob’s enthusiasm for writing appeared early and would last his whole life. As a young man he was always typing away on his typewriter—writing stories for his little sister Ruth, typing up his mother’s poems for her, writing for the local school yearbook. He got his hands on a big old-fashioned tape recorder and went around Vinalhaven recording interviews with the older residents. His interest in history would also endure throughout his life—in later years, he undertook a deeper investigation into family genealogy, discovering long-ago ancestors who were involved in the quarrying that sent granite from those tiny Downeast islands to help build the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

Bob began high school on Vinalhaven and finished at Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine, where his philosophical mind and ability to run through his spending money in the first week of school were both the stuff of legends. Before heading to Gould, he played clarinet in the Vinalhaven school band, at one point stepping in to lead the band when the instructor had to head back to the mainland. His driving skills were less impressive—after Bob plowed his car into a snowbank during a driving lesson, the instructor took the next ferry off the island and refused to return, leaving a generation of Vinalhaven teens to fend for themselves when it came to learning to drive.

One summer, as part of a young adventurers club, Bob went on a camping trip that took the intrepid explorers to National Parks across the country. Upon his return to Maine, he told his sister he’d never seen skies and sunsets and stars like they had out West. The call of those wide open skies was irresistible, and in some ways it shaped the rest of his life.

After studying at Saint Lawrence University in Canton, NY and the University of Colorado Boulder, Bob received a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Toronto. During the summers, he worked as a park ranger at the Carlsbad Caverns. He would lead tours past the “Bottomless Pit,” where he would tell the visitors that yes, it did indeed have a bottom, and no, they couldn’t climb the fence to see for themselves, even if they were boy scouts. The pinnacle of his park ranger days was the great Petrified Man prank. Before he led a tour through, Bob would wall one of his fellow rangers into a crevice in the caves, stacking rocks so that only one eye was visible. At the end of the tour, as they approached the crevice, he would intone, “And here…is the incredible…Petrified…MAN!” The tourists all crowded in to see, and then the hidden ranger would burst out, scattering rocks willy-nilly as the tourists screamed and the bats flew everywhere, startled out of their daytime dreams by the human antics below.

Bob left the caverns and made his way to Dallas, Texas. He took a job teaching college philosophy, became an amateur cowboy and a Catholic, and married a bright, beautiful redhead named Carolyn Taylor. They had two children, Amy Ruth and David Taylor—continuing the family tradition of giving middle names from previous generations. On Saturday mornings Bob would take on the alter ego of “Chef Gumbo,” personal chef to the kids, who could order anything they wanted for breakfast. Anything at all! –but they pretty much always ordered blueberry pancakes. Which were always delicious.

Bob was a prodigious cook and recipe creator. When the family was together, they’d come downstairs in the morning to find his fresh-baked blueberry muffins waiting for them. He was known for preparing delicious feasts, from appetizers to dessert, and had a special knack for Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. He won more than one cooking competition, including top prize for his chocolate cake in the Vinalhaven Death by Chocolate contest, and awards for his irresistible chili and casseroles at the Texas State Fair. In 2004 Bob created a cookbook for Amy and David, “Dad’s Best Recipes,” full of step-by-step instructions for dishes he had made for them in their childhood, alongside family tales and witty asides from their Pops in his inimitable observational style. Those cookbooks today are well-worn and adorned with love in the form of flour dust and chili spatters—lasting evidence of their frequent, affectionate use.

In the dedication, he wrote,


So many dear people have eaten my food and been complimentary about it. I remember each of you with love. Feeding those we love and their friends is one of the best ways I know to say, ‘I love you.’ Thanks to all of you, especially Amy and David, for being with me.

As Julia Child says, ‘Bon Appetit!’

With all my love,

“Gumbo”
During the early years in Dallas, Sunday afternoons were for cowboys and cowgirls. Bob would load Amy and David into his old green and white Ford truck and drive to a stables outside of Dallas. They rode horses named Tony and Strawberry Rascal and Cherokee Choctaw, and watched their Dad relive his amateur rodeo days. Later in the day David and his Dad would fly a kite together, watching it soar in the limitless blue. On those long ago summer afternoons, David would sometimes write messages on pieces of cardboard, notching them onto the kite string before he and his Dad sent the kite winging up into the sky. When they reeled the kite in, the messages were always gone. Where did they go? David decided it must be a way to talk to God and the angels. “Hello, my name is David,” he would write, “How are you?”

Bob didn’t leave Maine behind entirely. He took a sabbatical from the Dallas County Community College Philosophy Department, and headed back to Vinalhaven with his family. He set up a little writer’s cabin not far from the house where he’d grown up, and got to work on a major project: writing a workbook on Socrates. He spent many days there surrounded by his books, typing away with the sounds of summer sea birds drifting in through the window.

During these years, with the kids in parochial school, Bob became interested in the Catholic faith. He eventually became a parishioner at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Dallas, where he was a part of the congregation for twenty years. In the last few years of his life he was a daily communicant and sacristan, helping to set up for mass and volunteering with the church’s ministry for the poor, distributing food and help to those in need. He was a devoted and dearly-loved member of the church community. After mass, he often met Amy and her sons Nathan and Eli for lunch followed by ice cream at Braum’s, adding a new chapter to Sunday afternoon family traditions. As Bob grew older, he continued to sport his big moustache, and carried himself with an air of gallantry that seemed to come from a different era, prompting fellow parishioners to remark that he looked like he ought to be wearing a cowboy hat and riding horseback, like a sheriff in some old Hollywood western.

You can take the amateur cowboy out of the rodeo, but the rodeo stays with him.

After he and Carolyn separated, Bob stayed in Dallas and continued to teach. He was a pillar of the DCCC Philosophy Department, teaching there for 49 years, at both the El Centro and Richland campuses. He inspired thousands of students and mentored a number of other teachers, and was a beloved faculty member to the last. His quick intellect, compelling teaching style, and spirit of inquiry attracted students who had never thought they’d enjoy a philosophy class. Not to mention his Maine accent, which never ceased to delight his Texan acolytes. He continued to cook and share recipes with all who asked, and could sometimes be found sitting in his armchair, placidly smoking his familiar pipe, lost in thought while happy guests swirled around him. He spent his last Thanksgiving in the home of former student and friend Travis Bush and his wife Liz, congenially walking Liz through each step of the recipe as she mixed up the classic yeast rolls from the family cookbook.

Bob’s spiritual faith and philosophical knowledge were sustaining tracks throughout his life. In recent years the combined these with his love of writing in a new great project: a book about the Rosary. He became deeply interested in both the prayer and its history, and spent much of his final decade researching and writing about it. Bob dedicated the book to his grandsons Nathan and Eli. His children hope to see it published.

Bob’s daughter Amy was at his side throughout his final weeks, helping him to speak with his son David and sister Ruth, praying with him and ensuring that his cherished rosary beads were close at hand. The wide western sky beckoned once more, and Bob departed for parts unknown, the spirit of adventure in his heart and a twinkle in his eye. Like the cardboard messages David sent into the sky on a kite string, Bob’s memory lives on in the hearts of those who loved him.

Robert Cobb Bennett is survived by his daughter Amy Ruth Estrada, her husband Ray, and their sons Nathan and Eli, of Farmers Branch, TX; his son David Taylor Bennett and his wife Melody Bates, of Brooklyn, NY; his sister Ruth Ann Buteau and her husband John, of Coventry, CT and Vinalhaven, ME; and their children Lori Buteau Mayo, Bethany Buteau-DeMan, and Robert Buteau. A Funeral Mass will be held Wednesday, May 26th at 3pm at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 3811 Oak Lawn Avenue, Dallas, Texas. Friends and loved ones are encouraged to share tributes and memories of Robert here on this memorial page. In lieu of flowers, donations in Robert’s memory may be made to the Holy Trinity Center Love Your Neighbor campaign here.

Robert's obituary was written by his daughter-in-law Melody Bates
Posted by Jay Riscky on June 13, 2021
Bob was such a great man. I went to college because he told me I could do it and constantly encouraged me. We had so much fun sitting at Risckys BBQ in the West End trying to think of things like state capitols before the Internet. Sometimes the questions would last for days. Bob was one of a kind, I can still see his pipe in his back pocket smoking as he walked through the offices at El Centro. Bennett family, you’ll be in our thoughts and prayers. I’m glad Bob was a part of my life. Jay
Posted by Tyrant Rex on May 23, 2021
Here is a link to Bob's Cook Book for anyone wanting a copy..

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JEgqn2gFfB50V-pgWXnC9b1ToDx2-R0o/view?usp=sharing
Posted by Joseph Martin III on May 21, 2021
In 1990-1991 while I was at El Centro I took both an Intro Philosophy and a Honors class with Bob. My friend Glenn Sands and I also worked for him in the El Centro Registrar's office. I have many fond memories of the many times Bob, one of the Counselors and a couple of us would go down to Risky's barbeque in the west end after school to have a beer or two, talk about whatever. I will post a couple of my favorite stories from those days but here is one:

On one of my last days at El Centro before I transferring to what in those days was Southwest Texas State U...he gave me some wise philosophical advice:

"Don't get any girls pregnant."

He was always supportive, a pleasure to talk with, and his sense of humor was one of a kind.

Rest in Peace Scholar...Gentleman...Friend.

P.S. I remember Bob telling us one day in the office that he was going to become Catholic...I made him a tape of some music of Hildegard von Bingen, but at the end I included a comedy song called 'The Vatican Rag." Bob looked at me and told me I was probably going to go to Hell for that.

Fast forward to last week...I was thinking of Bob (unaware that he had passed) and figured he would like to hear about my recent decision....I decided to convert to Catholicism.

Hopefully he is up there somewhere puffing on his pipe and chuckling....
Posted by Tyrant Rex on May 20, 2021
forgiving our fathers
by dick lourie

maybe in a dream: he's in your power
you twist his arm but you're not sure it was
he that stole your money you feel calmer
and you decide to let him go free

or he's the one (as in a dream of mine)
I must pull from the water but I never
knew it or wouldn't have done it until
I saw the street-theater play so close up
I was moved to actions I'd never before taken

maybe for leaving us too often or
forever when we were little maybe
for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous because there seemed
never to be any rage there at all

for marrying or not marrying our mothers
for divorcing or not divorcing our mothers
and shall we forgive them for their excesses
of warmth or coldness shall we forgive them

for pushing or leaning for shutting doors
for speaking only through layers of cloth
or never speaking or never being silent

in our age or in theirs or in their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it -
if we forgive our fathers what is left
Posted by Tim Wyatt on May 20, 2021
What a wonderful tribute from family. It triggered a flood of good memories of what an original Bob truly was.

As one of his students in the late-70s, Bob had a profound impact on me as I struggled to find some direction and raise a badly damaged GPA after dropping out of NTSU. From logic to Nietzsche, afternoon "faculty consults" at Tolbert's Chili Parlor to amateur night at the Kowbell, this man was a caring, remarkable educator, and a kind and generous mentor.

I passed along one of his most useful lectures to my son when he entered university, which I summarize as: a subtle approach to BS'ing your instructor into giving you a higher grade. It worked in 1978, and in 2011.

Bob, wherever you are, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you did, for me and so many others. You had an amazing run at life, eh?
Posted by Bob Trotter on May 17, 2021
Bob was an intellectual "giant." gifted instructor, and profound philosopher.
What an honor for all of us who worked with him at El Centro College.

Multi-talented, he administered the Registrar's Office, and then, could return to his philosophy classes with dedicated teaching.

He will be sorely missed. Peace and Grace to his many friends and family.

With deepest sympathy,
Bob Trotter
Instructor of Government (ret.)
Posted by Sally Thibault on May 13, 2021
I did not know Bob and reading this reveals he was amazingly accomplished and deeply loved by all the many lives he touched through his years with his wisdom and caring. May your happy memories bring you comfort and peace, even joy, remembering his most beautiful life you shared with him. A life well lived - a beautifully written tribute.

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Recent Tributes
Posted by Jay Riscky on June 13, 2021
Bob was such a great man. I went to college because he told me I could do it and constantly encouraged me. We had so much fun sitting at Risckys BBQ in the West End trying to think of things like state capitols before the Internet. Sometimes the questions would last for days. Bob was one of a kind, I can still see his pipe in his back pocket smoking as he walked through the offices at El Centro. Bennett family, you’ll be in our thoughts and prayers. I’m glad Bob was a part of my life. Jay
Posted by Tyrant Rex on May 23, 2021
Here is a link to Bob's Cook Book for anyone wanting a copy..

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JEgqn2gFfB50V-pgWXnC9b1ToDx2-R0o/view?usp=sharing
Posted by Joseph Martin III on May 21, 2021
In 1990-1991 while I was at El Centro I took both an Intro Philosophy and a Honors class with Bob. My friend Glenn Sands and I also worked for him in the El Centro Registrar's office. I have many fond memories of the many times Bob, one of the Counselors and a couple of us would go down to Risky's barbeque in the west end after school to have a beer or two, talk about whatever. I will post a couple of my favorite stories from those days but here is one:

On one of my last days at El Centro before I transferring to what in those days was Southwest Texas State U...he gave me some wise philosophical advice:

"Don't get any girls pregnant."

He was always supportive, a pleasure to talk with, and his sense of humor was one of a kind.

Rest in Peace Scholar...Gentleman...Friend.

P.S. I remember Bob telling us one day in the office that he was going to become Catholic...I made him a tape of some music of Hildegard von Bingen, but at the end I included a comedy song called 'The Vatican Rag." Bob looked at me and told me I was probably going to go to Hell for that.

Fast forward to last week...I was thinking of Bob (unaware that he had passed) and figured he would like to hear about my recent decision....I decided to convert to Catholicism.

Hopefully he is up there somewhere puffing on his pipe and chuckling....
Recent stories
Shared by Lisa Theriot on May 13, 2021
I met Bob when he was the Registrar at El Centro.  I remember they had a hard time keeping him from smoking his pipe in his office.  He was a great guy