Pearl Harbor vet Bentz a hero to his family in every way

January 21, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note:Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Norman Hollenberger Bentz, who died Jan. 9 at the age of 88. His obituary was published in the Jan. 11 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

On a recent visit with his father, Jim Bentz said he was directed by him to drive down an alley behind Hamilton Boulevard in Hagerstown's North End.

"Dad got out and showed us where his initials were in that alley - the initials 'BB' for Bud Bentz, put there when he was 11 or 12 years old," Jim said by telephone from his Delaware home.

Jim's father, Norman Hollenberger Bentz, died Jan. 9 at the age of 88. He had been a resident of Homewood Retirement Village for three years.


While Norman's memory of recent events had begun to fade, he still was quite clear on his early days, including the story about the initials, Jim said.

Bo Ann Bohman, Norman's daughter, had a similar experience on Jan. 5 when her father told her he wanted to talk with his sister, Zazel Wilde, who lives in Connecticut.

"She meant so much to him," Bo Ann said.

The call was made, and although her father was unable to talk very well, he did get to hear her voice and was emotional through the entire call.

Zazel, a year older than her only brother, was unable to attend the Jan. 13 funeral, so Bo Ann was especially happy that they were able to have that last call just four days before he died.

A proud veteran of World War II, Norman was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by the Japanese. Several of Norman's children agreed that Pearl Harbor was the defining moment of their father's life, at least as far as he was concerned.

"I have all the letters dad wrote from Dec. 7-10, 1941, when he was stationed at Hickam Field in Hawaii with the U.S. Army," Jim said.

Son John Bentz, who lives in Ohio, e-mailed his thoughts on his father's life, and concurred with Bo Ann and Jim that his service in World War II gave him his greatest sense of accomplishment.

"He was so proud to be a Pearl Harbor survivor and became very emotional anytime World War II or Pearl Harbor were discussed," John said.

His father always would say so many good men were lost, but he fully realized that they did not give their lives in vain, John said.

"I remember he always included in our meal blessings the phrase, 'Keep us ever mindful of the needs of others,' and he certainly practiced what he preached," John said.

In his professional life, Norman was employed by Bentz & Mundey Jewelry Store and Bohman-Warne. He retired from Tri-State Electrical Supply, where he worked for more than 35 years.

Norman also was active in Little League as an officer and an umpire.

Bo Ann said her father would volunteer to do what he could to help elementary school children.

"First, he would read to them, and later, they read to him," she said.

Granddaughter Amee Kearns' memories of her "Pappy" include him picking her up after school when she was little. Then there were the monthlong family trips every summer to Stone Harbor, N.J.

"My sister Lauren (Kearns) and I remember the yard was nothing but pebbles, and Pappy told us to pick a stone, make a wish and keep it," Amee said.

Pappy always had time for her and would make her feel quite special, Amee said.

"He led us all by example and with his gentle manner and kindness," John said.

Jim called him a simple man who taught and guided his family with simple words and subtle actions.

"Dad lived with dignity and died with dignity - he was a true gentle spirit," Bo Ann said.

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