A former three-term Morgan County Commission chairman and industrial recruiter has died. Larry Bennich Sr., 75, of Decatur, died Friday afternoon at Huntsville Hospice Cares, according to Hartselle Heritage Funeral Home.
Bennich served as the commission chairman from 1986 to 2004 and was instrumental in establishing Mallard-Fox Creek Industrial Park, county officials said.
Jeremy Nails, president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, and County Commission Chairman Ray Long said Bennich will be remembered for his work moving the county forward.
“His vision and support in developing Mallard-Fox Creek Industrial Park and Port Facilities has left a positive mark on this community forever,” Nails said. “I will miss his guidance and friendship.”
Long added: “His legacy of bringing jobs to our area will never be forgotten.”
Bennich was one of four Morgan County officials to serve as president of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.
Former Decatur mayor and Morgan County Economic Development Chairman Lynn Fowler said he and the county lost a good friend with Bennich’s death.
“He was certainly an asset to this county and to the state,” Fowler said. “He had plenty of success negotiating with companies to locate in Morgan County. When he was running for office, we were trying to get the bond issue passed for the industrial park. When he got elected, he was an important part in getting the park and infrastructure built. It’s paid great dividends. We now have ULA, Nucor and other industrial giants out there. He got the mayors of this county to get on board with supporting the bond issue. He had strong working relationships with our state representatives, U.S. senators and governors.”
Fowler said Bennich was vital to developing a great rapport with Japanese companies locating in Morgan County.
“If it wasn’t for Bennich and our other officials taking those trips to Japan, we wouldn’t have what we have today,” he said. “We have been able to solidify those relationships with Daikin and others because of those trips.”
Fowler said he went on one trip to Japan and relied on Bennich during the trip to give him guidance on doing the right things regarding Japanese culture.
“He was one of those unusual people you would want to have as a public official, a volunteer, a teammate,” Fowler said. “He did more listening than he did talking. If it wasn’t for Larry and (longtime Decatur mayor and state representative) Bill Dukes, Morgan County and Decatur would not be as good of a place to live as it is now. … Larry was a man’s man who shared his life with others. If you didn’t know him, you missed the opportunity to have a first-class friend. He was well-respected in the political community, the county community and the family community. He was a man of great faith.”
Fowler said he enjoyed sitting and talking with Bennich at Decatur Kiwanis Club meetings and heard plenty of Bennich’s stories about golf.
“He may have loved golf as much as he loved helping people in this county,” he said.
Bennich also farmed, according to the funeral home.
Bennich is survived by his wife, Linda Bennich; one son, Larry “Sport” Bennich Jr.; one daughter, Jill Bennich; one brother, Rex Bennich; and two grandchildren.
According to Hartselle Heritage Funeral Home, a graveside service will be today at Bishop Cemetery at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Clayton Speed and the Rev. Jack Bailey officiating.