‘Everyone’s friend’: Illinois leaders remember Sen. Scott Bennett

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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Illinois leaders held a memorial service Monday to honor the life of Sen. Scott Bennett. The 45-year-old Democrat died unexpectedly on Dec. 9 after complications with an undetected brain tumor.

Bennett will be remembered as an intelligent lawmaker, a great friend and a role model who was never afraid to tell a dad joke.

“Scott was an incredibly effective lawmaker in part because he infused humor into our lives while demonstrating the most enviable traits like extraordinary integrity and radical compassion,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.

Hundreds of family, friends and elected leaders filled the Krannert Center for Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to celebrate the life of a man who impacted so many people in Illinois.

Scott Bennett grew up on his family farm in Gibson City. After serving as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana, Bennett advocated for change within the criminal justice system and education when he became a state senator.

Sen. Scott Bennett was a unique creature. In an era of soaring political egos and red meat rhetoric, Scott proudly took a different path,” said Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). “Self-deprecating and disarming, his humor broke down barriers to find common ground.”

Speakers recognized Bennett’s landmark legislation to increase college affordability, help people with disabilities save money, and keep drinking water safe in his district. Bennett was also a key sponsor of the SAFE-T Act trailer bill that cleaned up language for the pretrial fairness portion of the law before taking effect on Jan. 1.

“His work starting the conversation led to significant compromise that resolved many of the concerns, promoted justice for all involved, and protected our communities and our citizens,” said Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz.

Several of the lawmaker’s closest friends said he inspired them to keep working harder each day. Treasurer Michael Frerichs (D-Illinois) said Scott can live on in every person that he knew.

“Just as he pushed me to do more, to do better, let his life be an example to push you as well to give more back to your communities, to commit more towards your families, and to help your friends be a better version of themselves,” Frerichs said. “I know Scott did that for me.”

The Champaign Democrat leaves behind his wife, Stacy, and their twins, Sam and Emma. Pritzker told the Bennett family that he understands if condolences from friends are not enough to ease their sorrow right now.

“But I promise you that there will come a day when this pain eases, especially because Scott was such a special and unique and loving husband, and father, and friend,” Pritzker said.

The governor ordered flags lowered across the state to honor Bennett on the day he died. The Illinois State Police presented the Bennett family with the Illinois flag flown above the state capitol dome on Dec. 9.

U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe said she had the honor to serve in the Senate with Bennett and “hit the jackpot” when she became his officemate. The Glen Carbon Democrat said she witnessed Bennett’s deep and selfless commitment to the public through strong ethical conviction and tireless dedication.

“My favorite part of each day was unpacking what had happened in our office with the team,” Crowe said. “He was truly skilled at using humor to far outweigh the negative. I would literally laugh until I cried, and he took great joy in making me cry at work.”

Bennett’s family asked people to donate to CU Able or the Champaign Urbana Autism Network in lieu of flowers, as those were causes Scott was planning to focus on during the upcoming 2023 session.

I covered Sen. Bennett since I was a public affairs reporting intern in 2018. Anyone can tell you Scott’s smile and laughter were infectious, even on the longest days under the dome.

Copyright 2022 WGEM. All rights reserved.

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December 19, 2022 at 10:46PM

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