Dery Bennett, who passed from this life Tuesday, December 15, at the age of 79, was a larger than life individual in his physicality as well as his contributions to our awareness of the fragile link between natural life and the actions of human beings.
Tall and thin, Dery's head nearly touched the ceiling of WYGG's tiny studio, when he appeared on Asbury Radio to talk about the Littoral Society's concerns about dense development along the ocean. He reminded me at once of my Scottish relatives, absent the bristles.
Although Bennett grasped the urgency of our environmental situation decades before it became fashionable to take up the cause, he never seemed to view his own role too seriously. He acted from a solid sense that what needed to be done could only be accomplished by steady plodding and often saw the humor in that.
I remember calling Dery when I found a fallen sea gull that had been pushed to the side of the Norwood Avenue bridge here. "Can you see if there's a metal band on its leg?" Dery asked. I reluctantly ventured out to sneak another look at the remains and sure enough there was a silver-colored band. (The bands contain code numbers that should be called into the tracking station so their movements and lifespans can be monitored.)
"Is there some way you can get it off?" he asked. Silence on my end of the phone. "Well, I doubt he's going to mind if you have to cut off his leg at this point." That was Dery, an unflappable realist as he went about the humble business of saving the planet.