Dery Bennett passed away yesterday.
If you know Sandy Hook, you most certainly knew Dery.
The American Littoral Society, a coastal preservation organization which he directed for some 35 years, is located next to the bird observatory on Sandy Hook Bay. It lobbies on coastal land use, development and water quality issues; works to protect water quality, habitat and wildlife, and runs educational and research programs, including the largest volunteer fish-tagging program in the country.
Bennett most recently was the organization's director of special projects, after relinquishing the directorship a couple years back. But for many, me included, he WAS the American Littoral Society - its conscience and guiding light. Dery was probably one of the best advocates the coast and ocean has ever known... he fought for public beach access and against developers and lobbyists. He edited the society's newsletter and led beach walks on New Year's Day. He was a fisherman and a wisecracker and a genuinely good guy.
I'll miss crossing paths with him at North Beach... miss that shock of white hair and his friendly wave across the dunes.
"He talks about the ocean as if it is more important than the economic viability of the state."
-- Hal Bozarth, a lobbyist for the Chemistry Council of New Jersey
Photo of Dery, in a wetsuit and presumably on a surfboard, from The Newark Star Ledger. He was 79.