Richard ‘Dick’ N. Bentley

Dick wanted to be remembered for the love of his family that he left behind. His children, Julia and Nick, his daughter-in-law, Dana, his grandchildren, Davey, Ellie, and Teddy, and of course, Carolyn, his wife and partner in all life’s adventures.  Dick’s world brimmed with friends, classmates, neighbors, and colleagues; he drew people to him at every stage of his life and never left them behind. It was not uncommon to find him in conversation with classmates from kindergarten or high school, all of whom were still dear friends.  This is the man Dick was; once he drew others to him, they were always a part of his life.

Dick was born and grew up in Chicago, then moved east to attend Groton and then Yale.  After graduating, he became an urban planner and took great pride in his work on housing integration in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and Boston.  At age 50, he left urban planning to settle in Amherst to follow his passion in a new career as a writer. He earned an MFA in creative writing from Vermont college, and went on to a prolific writing career as a poet and a short story author.  His work earned many honors, including Pushcart Prize recognition and the Paris Review/Paris Writers Workshop International Fiction Award.  He published four books of poetry, short stories, and nonfiction, all illustrated with his rich, complex artwork.

Dick’s family was his overwhelming joy, whether in his study of his ancestors dating back to the early 1800s, or in celebrating the birth of his youngest grandchild, Teddy, in 2021.  Dick’s passion for family history brought the past to life as he aptly narrated, documented, and shared the lively stories of the Bentley clan.  He loved a good argument, or maybe a discussion on politics, history, literature, and lately, the meaning of life.  His questions were endless, his laughter boundless.  Stories of growing up abounded and sharing time with his nieces and nephews was often a part of dinner conversation.  Thanksgivings in Amherst were the highlight of every year, as Dick held court in the candlelight of our Amherst home, encouraging others to take a turn at reading a poem aloud to the table, reminding us that in his childhood, all poems would have been memorized.

His sketches, pastels, watercolors, and collages filled his home with the creative spirit that he embodied.  Dick will be remembered reading, always reading, most likely Cheever or Fitzgerald, or with pen in hand, deftly putting into words the world he saw or felt each day of his life. One of his last moments found him with a special friend at his bedside, reading to him from “Oh What a Paradise it Seems,” a title that embodies Dick’s view of life. We are so grateful to the hospice of the Fisher home, who provided Dick with comfort and dignity in his peaceful death at home, surrounded by his loved ones.

Dick lived in a world of words, written, read, and spoken with the many who knew and loved him.  We would like to close with some of his writing, words that continue to speak to us although his is gone.

“To die is to lift us without limits.” Dick Bentley, Leaving Chicago

“If time were like the tide, we would surge into the future then rush back into the past.” Dick Bentley, Landlocked, All Rise