Every year, Rhinebeck High School holds a tournament with teams competing in several sports to honor the memory of former Rhinebeck three-sports athlete, Andy Bennett. Its been more than 20 years now since Bennett's passing so none of today's Hawks were even born when the tragedy took place. Memories of two people that knew Bennett very well help paint a picture of what the tournament's namesake was like as a person and an athlete.
" Whenever someone passes away at such a young age, you obviously always hear the good things about the person but, I've got to tell you, this kid was one of the nicest human beings I've ever met in my life," said Terry Euell, a teammate of Bennett's on the 1987 Rhinebeck boys soccer team that captured the sectional crown and one of Bennett's best friends.
" He was a very likeable kid," said Bennett's soccer coach, Ron Keefe. " He was very outgoing. Everybody liked him, He was a very friendly kid. He was a hard-nosed, tough kid who was competitive. Academically, he wasn't a great student but, I'll tell you what, he worked very hard the last year he was there and gained the admiration of the teachers which is very important. He earned their respect."
With Bennett's mom heading a single parent household, she would sometimes work two jobs to support the family. One of her jobs was waitressing which would mean her best days for tips were Friday and Saturday nights.
" I can give you one perfect example of what Andy was all about," said Euell. " He had a younger brother, Paulie, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of four. A lot of times, instead of going out to a party on Friday and Saturday night, Andy would stay home and babysit Paulie so his mom could go to work."
" The soccer team was a pretty tight crew back then and we were like one big family," Euell continued. " If Andy couldn't go out to a party, then none of us did. We'd all go to Andy's and hang out together. I have to laugh, we would watch Disney's Cinderella and Fantasia all of the time because they were Paulie's favorites. I think that one of the reasons that he was such a loved kid was because of everything he did for his younger brother."
Bennett played soccer, basketball and baseball at Rhinebeck but it was soccer where he seemed to make his biggest mark. Keefe remembered what his goalie was like as an athlete.
" As far as a goalie, he had a lot of mental toughness. He was very fast and he had a good eye for the game. He was like a director back there. He encouraged his teammates in front of him but he would also let them know when they weren't doing their job. He was a leader. When it came to practice, he was there early and he was the last one to leave.
Keefe recalled one of his fondest memories of Bennett.
" He was just a great practice player," Keefe says. " He'd bring his game face to practice which really made practice a lot of fun. That's one thing I really remember about him as an athlete, his work ethic was really good. His attitude blossomed out to the rest of the kids on the team."
" It was rare in my generation and probably even more so now that you see a 16 or 17 year-old kid who worked a part-time job on top of going to high school, playing three sports and acting as a father figure for his younger brother," said Euell. " He was just an awesome kid. I can't stress enough what an incredible human being that Andy was."