Richard Bennett, the youngest child of a pioneer El Toro family, died Dec. 1, the day his family had set aside to celebrate an early Christmas. He was 79.
Born in Santa Ana on Feb. 19, 1933, he was the youngest of Harvey and Frances Bennett's six children. He attended the two-room El Toro Grammar School and then Tustin High School. As a teen, he contracted polio and had to drop out of football and classes. He was hospitalized and eventually returned home, but briefly remained under the care of a nurse.
After high school, he studied agriculture at Cal Poly San Dimas.
Like his father, Richard Bennett initially worked with nursery stock. He later moved to Ventura County where he established his own citrus ranch.
Fellow members of the Saddleback Area Historical Society were happy to see Bennett at October’s Pioneer Roundup. At an earlier meeting in June, he stayed late telling stories of his teenage years to an appreciative audience.
He died at home in Santa Ana.
He is survied by his wife, Betty, sister Bonnie Bennett Hendrie, brother Harvey Bennett Jr., four daughters, three stepchildren and a number of foster children. A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Heritage Hill Historical Park.