Friends remember North High School alum Barry Bennett


From left, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, Barry Bennett and Dave Gibson stopped for a picture at the most recent North St. Paul football reunion. (photos courtesy of Dave Gibson)

Barry Bennett, left, and Dave Gibson sat on Santa Claus’ lap when they were teenagers.

Carol and Barry Bennett posed for a photo. They married in Buffalo on July 30, 1977.

The former sports star and teacher will be missed, they say

 

The news of Barry Bennett’s sudden death has those who knew him well wanting answers and reminiscing about his life. 

The 63-year-old former football pro, who graduated from North High School in 1974, was a lineman for 11 NFL seasons. He played for the Vikings in 1988.

“It was quite a shocker for me. Their lives were taken,” said Dave Gibson, Bennett’s close friend, a Polars football co-captain and current pastor at Grace Church in Eden Prairie. “It wasn’t just a casual friendship [we had].”

Bennett and his wife, 66-year-old Carol, were fatally shot in their Long Prairie home on Aug. 21. Their son, 22-year-old Dylan Bennett, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in connection to his parents’ death. Dylan Bennett was extradited from Mexico after being arrested at a Cancun hotel three days after the killings, the Todd County Sheriffís Office said.

“They were wonderful people, the Bennetts,” said Gibson, who met Bennett in high school, describing him as a tremendous man of integrity.

 

Remembering Bennett

“People who knew him really loved him,” Gibson said. “I had a lot of love and respect for my friend Barry. He’s a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We did life together.”

Friends say in high school and beyond, Bennett played football, wrestled and maintained a love for golf. From North High School he went to Concordia College where he continued to play football.

Kevin Slaikeu, a retired steampunk artist in Afton, graduated high school with Bennett — they were wrestling captains together.

“He was a silent giant. A great, great athlete — one of the best North High has ever seen,” Slaikeu said. “[He] made a huge impact on everybody he touched in school. Everybody I talked to was totally shocked.”

 

Bennett’s life

Bennett grew up in Long Prairie, about 130 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. 

He won the Minnesota State Heavyweight Wrestling Championship in 1974 — weighing 215 pounds and regularly beating opponents weighing 250 or more, said Bruce Fisher, whose son went to school with Bennett. 

Fischer said Bennett’s mother, Hazel Bennett, would take him to the University of Minnesota while enrolled in high school to practice wrestling. Those extra miles were true to his character.

“Barry was an intense competitor and just an amazingly gifted athlete,” Gibson said. “What he lacked in any kind of ability, he made up in effort. He was such a hard worker.”

Despite his early success, those who knew him say he never wore his athleticism — or faith — on his sleeve. They described Bennett as sincere, a true sportsman and always willing to lend a hand. 

“Just a quiet, lovable guy,” Slaikeu said. “Just never bragged or boasted about his abilities in athletics or anything.”

Friends said his family was religious and that faith was a big part of Bennett’s life.

“You could see the reality of his Christian faith in the way he lived his life, the way he treated people,” Gibson said.

 

Bennett’s legacy

Bennett won three national collegiate football championships and went on to play for the New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings in the NFL, from 1978 to 1988. After his football career, he moved back to Long Prairie with Carol and their children where they enjoyed hunting on their 16-acre lot. 

He was a high school P.E. teacher for 22 years in Long Prairie until his retirement in 2014, friends say.

Dylan and his brother Lenard Bennett were adopted by the Bennetts, joining their four biological children.

“I didn’t have any indication that there was a problem,” Gibson said of the alleged homicide. “But I could tell he had come from a troubled background [and was] very insecure,” he said of Dylan.

But friends said they aren’t focusing on the tragic shooting or what could have possibly gone wrong. They said they know Bennett will be remembered with love in the sports, faith and education communities.

“The testimony of their lives will echo into eternity,”  Gibson said, noting both Bennett and Carol impacted lives on and off the field — even for those who haven’t seen him since high school 45 years ago.

“Of all the years that have gone past, you just still remember what a great person he was,” Slaikeu said. “And he carried that his whole life.”

 

–Amy Felegy can be reached at 651-748-7815 or afelegy@lillienews.com.

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