Nothing meant more to the Rev. Marcus G. Bennett Sr. than God and family.
He served as pastor or co-pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Church in Boston for 47 years, and also worked at a variety of other jobs to support his wife and children.
Rev. Bennett “always cared about his family,” said Jessie Stokes of Boston, his supervisor at the Boston Housing Authority, where Rev. Bennett worked for many years.
Stokes added that Rev. Bennett “would often tell me no matter what you do in life, your family comes first. He would say there is God and there is your family.”
Rev. Bennett, who with his wife, Mattie, received a Boston Neighborhood Fellows Award in 1998, died of sepsis Aug. 12 in Tobey Hospital in Wareham. He was 87 and lived in East Wareham.
The Bennetts were among seven people to whom Mayor Thomas M. Menino presented the awards during an April 1998 ceremony in the John Hancock Observatory. The awards, given by The Philanthropic Initiative, at the time included $20,000.
Rev. Bennett and his wife were recognized as unsung heroes for their work with the church and organizing community activities, including clothing and food drives and trips for neighborhood youths.
Despite the many demands of church and his other jobs, Rev. Bennett made time for family, said his son Michael of Sharon.
“We always did something in the summer, like go to Maine or New Hampshire,” Michael said. “We went to church convocations and were allowed to invite neighborhood friends to join us, and during some outings we stayed in hotels and swam in the hotel pool. Our dad was always there for us, and he loved us unconditionally.”
Rev. Bennett, he added, was known to many as “Uncle Marcus, because our house was always open for friends.”
David Mahone of Randolph, the church organist, said Rev. Bennett will be missed in part because he treated everyone the same.
“When he came to Bethel Pentecostal, he didn’t come in like he was the head honcho,” Mahone said. “He came in and worked his way up from being a lay member to becoming a deacon to eventually becoming the pastor. And he let all the members know if we had a problem we could sit with him and talk about it until we figured out how to solve it. He was very well-loved.’’
Born in New Bedford on Christmas Day in 1925, Rev. Bennett was the third of Sarah and Robert Bennett Sr.’s five sons. He also had three sisters and a brother from his mother’s first marriage.
During the Depression, he quit school while he was in the sixth grade to work to help support his family. He later obtained the equivalent of a general equivalency diploma, his family said.
At 22, he married his high school sweetheart, the former Mattie M. Johnson.
“Our dad educated himself by reading a lot,” said Marcia Bennett of Atlanta, the oldest of Rev. Bennett’s children, who added that he “was very logical in his thinking.”
She said he had a witty sense of humor and that his jokes amused his children, who welcomed his arrival home each day.
“In late afternoons before dad returned from work, my Mom would bathe me, do my hair and put me in a frilly dress, and then I’d sit outside on the steps and wait for my dad to round the corner,” Marcia said. “Once I saw him I’d take off running yelling ‘Daddy.’ When I reached him I’d jump up in his arms and he’d carry me home.”
To support his family, Rev. Bennett worked various jobs and took vocational courses.
“He sometimes worked two jobs at a time, and at one point owned Marcus Bennett Oil Burner Services,” Michael said. “He was a steamfitter, a pipefitter, an electrician, a carpenter, a welder, and a notary public.”
Rev. Bennett’s primary means of supporting his family was his steamfitter job, however, and he “made sure he would never leave a tenant in a crisis,” Stokes said.
“He’d always make sure the task was completed. It didn’t make any difference what time of morning or night we called him. Rain or shine he’d show up and complete the job,” Stokes added. “He never went into anybody’s home looking down on them, and he always left them feeling better than they were feeling, because he always had something good to say.”
Stokes called Rev. Bennett his “friend and my mentor. I couldn’t be more thankful for the things he taught me about life. I learned how to be a good husband because of him, because he treated his wife the way a wife deserves to be treated.”
A service has been held for Rev. Bennett, who in addition to his wife, son and daughter leaves three other daughters, Michelle Bennett Johnson and Meri Bennett Williams, both of Atlanta; and Joann Busby of Easton; two other sons, Marcus Jr. of Atlanta and Matthew of Boston; two brothers, Alexander and Warren, both of Boston; 10 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
Tributes written by Rev. Bennett’s family and friends attested to his influence on their lives.
“His sense of humor, smile, loving hugs and tender kisses will be missed,” his grandchildren wrote. “To some of us he was a father figure, to others a teacher, our voice of reason, our compassionate ear, our shoulder to cry on and our biggest cheerleader.”
The congregation at Bethel Pentecostal Church wrote about the example he set.
“He showed us what a husband looks like by the loving way he referred to his wife, Mattie,” the church tribute said. “He showed us what fatherhood looks like by how he treated his children and others.”