FALMOUTH — Stanley Taylor Bennett II, 64, former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Oakhurst Dairy, died Feb. 23 in Scarborough after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was born in 1947, in Portland, a son of Donald Huston and Lucia Pond Bennett. He attended Portland schools and graduated from Deering High School in 1965. After graduating from Tufts University, he went on to receive his law degree from Boston University School of Law in 1972. Shortly thereafter he began working for the family business, Oakhurst Dairy.
Bennett became president of the company in 1983, taking over from his grandfather, Stanley T. Bennett, who started the business in 1921.
Oakhurst Dairy contributes to a number of local non-profits, which Stanley Bennett’s brother, Bill Bennett said has a lot to do with Stanley Bennett’s personal dedication to community organizations.
Bennett was recently recognized by the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine, which Bill Bennett said was an organization near and dear to his brother’s heart.
“Stanley learned to swim there,” he said.
The Friends of Casco Bay, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Tidewater Farm Project were some of the more recent recipients of his enthusiasm and energy.
Stanley Bennett was active in the Republican Party, although he never ran for office.
“I am saddened to learn of Stan’s passing,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement last week. “He was devoted not only to his family and his business, but he also contributed so generously to his community and to our entire state. As the leader of Northern New England’s largest independent dairy company, his entrepreneurial spirit and success were an inspiration to many.”
Bennett had become interested in genealogy and recently gave everyone in the family an 800-page family history. He was an avid boater, spending his free time in Casco Bay on his 47-foot sailboat, “Lucia II,” named after his mother.
Bennett’s brothers, Bill and John Bennett, took on the roles as president and CEO, and vice president of operations, respectively, when Stanley Bennett became ill last summer. Two of his sisters, Althea Bennett McGirr and Jean Bennett Driscoll, also work for the company, and many members of the Bennett family sit on the company’s Board of Directors.
“The main reason we’ve been so successful over the years is because of him,” Bill Bennett said, adding that many of the recent steps the company has taken to decrease its carbon footprint, including purchasing bio-fuels from a local company that turns restaurant fry oil into bio-fuel and installing solar panels on the roofs of the company’s various buildings, were because of Stanley Bennett’s leadership.
“Maine Bio-Fuels takes the oil from the restaurants, converts it to bio-fuel, then we put it in the trucks that are delivering (milk products) to those same restaurants,” Bill Bennett said.
Stan Bennett was known for walking through the Oakhurst Dairy buildings, picking up trash he saw on the floor and always cleaning up the buildings, Bill Bennett said.
“He was a detail guy. Things had to be right and it shows,” he said.
The company has increased sales and its delivery area, nearly doubling in size in the past 10 years, Bill Bennett said.
Stan Bennett was also well-known for his loyalty to customers and to the dairy farmers who worked for the company, and for defending Oakhurst Dairy against a legal attack in 2003 by Monsanto that its “no artificial growth hormones” label damaged the chemical company’s image.
“Although we did not win that case, we fought them long enough that we were able to say what we wanted on the labels,” Bill Bennett said.
As part of the lawsuit, the company agreed to add a disclaimer in small print that states that the Food and Drug Administration says there is “no significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone.” Bill Bennett said the “David and Goliath” battle was hard on the company, but that Stanley Bennett was very proud of what the small dairy company from Maine was able to accomplish.
“He always felt that, whether you believe the science or not … we knew our customers didn’t want it,” Bill Bennett said. “We wanted to be able to say, ‘We don’t have artificial growth hormones.'”
Stanley Bennett is survived by his three children, Theodore, Colby and Sara Jane, and his former wife, Chris Arlander, all of Falmouth. Their incredible love and support were the most important part of his life. Also surviving him are his six brothers and sisters: Priscilla B. Doucette, Althea B. McGirr, William P. Bennett, Jean B. Driscoll, Mary Ellen B. Tetreau and John H. Bennett, their spouses, and many nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to thank Julie and Dr. Matt Dugan from the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine.
The funeral was held Tuesday at the Woodfords Church, in Portland. A private burial followed at Evergreen Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Maine Cancer Foundation, 970 Baxter Boulevard, Suite 204, Portland, Me. 04112 or to the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine, Cumberland Ave., Portland, Me 04101.
Please visit www.jonesrichandhutchins.com for additional information and to sign the guestbook.