Extracted from the obituary written by Brenda Bolinger, Claremont Courier 9/23/06.
Bill Bentley died at home on September 16, 2006, from cancer at the age of 64. The consensus among those remembering Bill is that it is simply impossible to sum him up. How does one capture the essence of a man of such character, integrity, authenticity and deep concern for his family, friends and community?
It is impossible to sum up Bill in a few words,” said Mary Weis. “He was wonderfully wise, incredibly witty and the most authentic person I’ve ever known. The loss of Bill is a huge loss for the Claremont community. There’s just no way to say everything. It’s so hard to describe what losing Bill is like.”
Bill was born on November 9, 1941 at Queen of Angels Hospital in Covina to Frederick and Alice Bentley. He grew up in Claremont, attending Sycamore Elementary School and Claremont High School. During his senior year, he was elected to Boy’s State League and went on to Colorado College where he served as president of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, graduating from college in 1963.
For approximately 3 years in the 1960s, Bill took a brief hiatus from Claremont residency and lived in Arcadia. In 1964, he began working in the management program for Security National Bank in Pasadena where he met his wife, Sharron Lee Rogers, in 1965; the couple was married for 41 years.
“He just had a great sense of integrity,” said Sharron. “He was so much fun and loving and such a bright spirit. And he had a really funny wit, a very dry wit. He was a great man.”
In 1968, Bill and Sharron returned to Claremont where he joined his father at Bentley’s Market. Bill was the third generation owner of the market, which was started by his grandfather, Lewis James Bentley, in 1917, and operated by his father, Fred Bentley, until his retirement and death in 1987.
“While running Bentley’s Market, his customers were loyal because they knew him to be an honest and decent human being,” remarked longtime friend and neighbor Tim Brayton. After the market closed, Bill sponsored the first Claremont Farmer’s Market in the Rhino Records parking lot.
Bill lived his life in service to others. He was an active participant in the local business community, a third-time elder of the Claremont Presbyterian Church, president of the Friends of Oak Park Cemetery and board member and president of the board of trustees of Foothill Country Day School.
“Mr. Bentley is a person who spent his life caring about people…he and his wife, Sharron, were always there for their relatives and friends, not just peripherally but highly involved on a day-to-day basis,” Mr. Brayton commented. “We are losing a person with a great deal of integrity and character, a person who if he said he would do something for you, you could count on it.”
Mr. Brayton also noted that it was Bill’s involvement with Oak Park Cemetery that enhanced and enriched the cemetery, elevating it to a higher plane. “It was something very important to him,” Mr. Brayton said.
Bill loved music and played in numerous musical groups, including the Claremont Symphony, the Pomona City Band, Bones West of Orange County, the Claremont Winds and the Pomona College Trombone Choir. He was also an active mountain biker and motorcyclist, and he loved to rollerblade.
A great sense of humor and a dry wit were two traits Bill will be remembered for. And, he retained such an uplifted spirit despite facing personal catastrophes during his lifetime: he had two sons that predeceased him. Despite his own suffering, Bill remained caring and concerned for the lives and circumstances of others. Dan Sauter, former owner of The Danson restaurant in the Claremont Village, had also lost a young son; he and Bill persevered through these devastating times together.
Bill is survived by his wife, Sharron of Claremont; by his daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Jonathan Drezner of Princeton, New Jersey; by his sister-in-law & her husband, Susan and Patrick Payne, of Claremont; by his sister-in-law, Caryl Bentley of Rockford, Illinois; by his grandsons, Nathan, Benjamin, and Julian Drezner; and by his nephew, Patrick, and his niece, Ashley, and their families. He was predeceased by his brother, Warner “Ben” Bentley in 1965, by his son, Scott, in 1970 and his son, Andrew, in 1985.