In the Line of Duty Memorials
Barry Michael Bennett
Cambridge Fire Department
Year of Death: 2003
Submitted by his wife
"Don't sweat the small stuff..." Capt. Barry M. Bennett, 49, of the Cambridge Fire Department, lived by those words.
On the job, Barry was known for sizing up a situation, and making quick no-nonsense choices on the fire ground. Get in, get the job done (and done right), and get out - safe. But Barry also liked a healthy dose of humor. Jokes were always welcome during his 18-plus years on the Rescue, Engines 1 and 2, or Ladder 1, and he enjoyed both dishing out and being the object of good-natured jesting. Anyone who ever worked with him knew he never let the risks of fire fighting cause too many moments of outward worry: At his "Celebration of Life," life-long friend Capt. Stephen Leonard recounted how as a "newbie," he once stood next to Barry under windows at an 8-alarm row house fire; Steve fretted over how they were manning a hose in puddles a little too close to nearby electrical wires - he had already been zapped! - and yet Barry seemed unfazed. Just then, an air conditioner flew down from several stories above, lightly brushing Barry's shoulder and crashing at his feet. Barry looked at Steve with his devilish half-smirk and said, "See what I mean, Steve? Don't sweat the small stuff!" That was Barry - "almost" only counted in hand grenades and nuclear war!
Barry was a very hard-working man. A Vietnam veteran, he obtained both associates and bachelors degrees from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. He joined the Cambridge Fire Department on March 17, 1985. For most of his career, Barry held a second job as an electronics engineer. He often balanced day shifts at United Electric against night shifts at Fire Headquarters, an exhausting pace. It wasn't unusual for him to be away from home for two or three days at a time while he juggled his two jobs. But Barry did this gladly to provide a wonderful life for me and his three sons: Zack, Chris, and Andrew, whom he absolutely adored. His children were his greatest gift and greatest source of pride. When he was with his boys, Barry loved to take them on vacation to Vermont, on fishing trips, camping, movies, or just hang out with them at home. When he found a little extra time, he liked going out to the garage to tinker around with a 1976 Porsche he treasured (though it was in a million pieces.)
A family Christmas party was a "must." Each year, on the weekend before Christmas, we hosted many grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neices and nephews at our home for an old fashioned family bash - and Barry took great pride choosing the menu and preparing a terrific buffet himself. He was quite a cook here at home and, while a confirmed vegetarian, he spent hours roasting and basting meats and game of all sorts, baking fine side dishes and desserts, and planning even the minutest details of his favorite holiday for his relatives.
Speaking of being a vegetarian... Barry took an awful lot of kidding about his other passion: bow hunting. Why, some of his sporting buddies teased, would a vegetarian/non-meateater sit for hours on end in a tree trying to take a deer? "Well," he'd shrug with the famous Barry-grin, "because they're my competition for the local food source."
The truth is, the actual hunting part was an aside - Barry enjoyed spending long hours in the woods of Maine, New York, or his favorite area: the Quabbin Reservoir. Whether just walking for miles, bow and compass in hand, or simply watching deer graze at the foot of a tree where he'd sit for hours on end, Barry was most at home in the forest... far from the sirens of Engine 1 and the bustle of Harvard Square, away from the frenzy of crowds and the noise of the neighborhoods he served. And when he died, it was his favorite refuge at the Quabbin where Barry's sons and a small group of childhood friends scattered his ashes, to become one with the forest again.
At the time of his death on Nov. 2, 2003, Barry, then Group 2 Lieutenant of Engine 1, was a candidate for promotion to Captain, having studied for, and passed, the state examination. Chief Gerald Reardon posthumously promoted Barry to the rank of Captain on Nov. 5, recognizing my husband's valiant struggle against the ravages of his fatal injury, his time-tested leadership skills, and devotion to the Fire Department.
Barry would want all of us to forget the sadness of his fate, and embrace life as he did: with a good joke, unwavering hope, and perseverance in the face of any adversity or hardship. Save the worries, fears, and tears for the truly important moments - and make each new day count.
"Don't sweat the small stuff," he'd remind us. Wise words from a good husband, father, friend, and a good Jake.
Godspeed, Barry Bennett. -From his wife, Janie.