Holly W. Bennett Jr., BGE construction coordinator

He had a second career as Santa Claus

  • Holly W. Bennett Jr.
Holly W. Bennett Jr. (Baltimore Sun )
September 24, 2014|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | The Baltimore Sun

Holly W. Bennett Jr., a retired Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. construction coordinator who had a second career playing Santa Claus, died Monday at his grandson's Halethorpe home of complications from dementia. He was 84.

The son of Holly W. Bennett Sr., a steamship and fire boat captain, and Edith C. Bennett, a homemaker, Holly Wells Bennett Jr. was born in Baltimore and raised in Catonsville.

A 1949 graduate of Catonsville High School, he was a member of the Marine Corps Reserve and was called to active duty in 1950. He fought with the Marines at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War and earned a Purple Heart.

Discharged in 1953 with the rank of corporal, Mr. Bennett remained an active reservist until being discharged in 1957. Then he enlisted in the Maryland National Guard, where he served until 1959.

Mr. Bennett began his BGE career in 1952 as a chauffeur. He rose to become a heavy-equipment operator and finally construction coordinator for Howard County, where one of his important projects was helping build Columbia.

He retired in 1989.

For more than 40 years, Mr. Bennett played Santa Claus, visiting children at hospitals and schools. And for more than 20 years, he was the Santa at the Woodlawn tree lighting ceremony.

"He loved Christmas, and kids confused him all the time with being the real Santa Claus," said his son, Holly W. Bennett III of Ellicott City.

He refused all offers of remuneration for his services, his son said.

"He was always portly, and in later years sported white hair and full beard that children could tug in amazement when they realized it was no fake," his son said.

He had been active in the Boy Scouts since joining in 1942, and in 1985 was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor presented to adult leaders.

The longtime resident of Maysfield Road in Edmondson Heights moved to Ocean City in 1992, where he lived until returning to Halethorpe this year.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Candle Light Funeral Home, 1835 Frederick Road, Catonsville.

In addition to his son and grandson, Mr. Bennett is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Juleanne K. Burke; a daughter, Teresa S. Oros of Eldersburg; a brother, Ralph D. Bennett of Catonsville; a sister, Patricia S. Evans of Catonsville; and four granddaughters.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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