Obituary | Jack Jesse Bennett

Jack J. Bennett | 1970 – 2022

PHOTO: courtesy of the Bennett Family | South Pasadena News | Jack J. Bennett in the lobby of the Fremont Centre Theatre where Young Stars Theatre is in residence.

Jack Jesse Bennett passed away on April 23, 2022 in Pasadena, California. He was 51. He is survived by his wife Gloria Bennett, daughter Miranda Miller, mother Penny Bennett, sister Janna (Jacob) Tindall, niece Briella Antenorcruz, his cherished friends and untold numbers of children whose lives he influenced through theatre.

Jack was born on December 26, 1970, in Emporia, Kansas where his parents, Morris Albert (Ben) Bennett and Penny Diann (Goodwin) Bennett were attending college. The family moved to Independence, Missouri, in 1975 where Jack attended Tri-City Christian High School, graduating Class of 1989.

Jack learned to read when he was 4 years old and he never stopped till the day he died. He loved books. That same year his intellectual abilities probably saved his mother’s life. She was expecting a second child when she became seriously ill one day and unable to call for help. Since Jack was the only one present to help her, he kept at it until he was able to manipulate their dial phone to call for help.The baby was lost, but his mother was saved.

- Advertisement -
Jack Jesse Bennett

Jack was first bitten by the acting bug at 5 years old. At his kindergarten graduation program, he played Little Jack Horner where he “stuck in his thumb, pulled out a plum, and said ‘What a good boy am I’.” The sound of audience laughter at that moment was a sound that had him hooked for life.

When Jack was 8, his mom was expecting another child. He prayed for a sister with blue eyes and blond hair. That’s exactly what he got!

At the age of 10, Jack decided to surprise everyone with his ability to memorize lines and deliver them with flare. In preparing for his lead part in a school program, he purposely did not ask for help from anyone. He wanted to shock the family when he burst on the stage. He certainly succeeded! Needless to say, he got the lead in his school programs after that.

When he was 19, his father died unexpectedly of heart problems. He lost not only his father, but his best friend and mentor. His father’s insurance enabled him to attend Maranatha Baptist Bible College where he played football and received his degree in theatre education. His senior production of “The Uninvited Guest” was remembered on campus for years afterwards. He was known by his football buddies and roommates as incredibly fun and funny – the guy who could always make them laugh the hardest.

Upon graduation, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, with a college friend, where he was cast in his first equity production at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre, where he met his future wife, Gloria, and her daughter, Miranda. He performed throughout Jacksonville as well appearing in TV, films, and commercials all over Florida until it finally became clear that Los Angeles was where he wanted to be to further his career.

PHOTO: courtesy of Gloria Bennett | South Pasadena News | Jack and Gloria Bennett on their wedding day with daughter Miranda Miller.

When Jack and Gloria married in 2002, Jack continued to raise Miranda as his own and continued to be there for her throughout her life. “The best stepdad I could have asked for,” says Miranda. “I’m so glad we got to be on stage together one last time in a show we both had on our bucket lists. I miss you.” The two were starring in “The Music Man” at Fremont Centre Theatre the last week of Jack’s life.

PHOTO: Faith Knapp | South Pasadena News | Marion Paton, Ted Wells, Miranda Miller, Iah Bearden-Vrai, and Jack J. Bennett in Young Stars Theatre’s production of The Music Man on stage at Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena.

While in Jacksonville, Jack and Gloria created a youth theatre company called Young Stars Theatre where they taught voice, acting, improv and produced numerous plays and musicals, working with hundreds of children through the years. The family moved to North Hollywood, California in 2003 and re-launched YST in 2006. During this time, Gloria was an agent and Jack was living his dream of being a working actor in Hollywood.

Throughout his career, Jack has appeared on the live stage thousands of times, both as an actor and stand-up comedian. Jack was represented by Bicoastal Talent Agency for 24 years. First in Florida with Greta Hanley and in LA with Liz Hanley and Greta Hanley and Managed in LA by Brandon Kjar of Kjar & Associates. As an actor, he has won numerous awards including a Best Actor award for the role of Starbuck in The Rainmaker at Theatre Winter Haven. As a comedian, one of his favorite experiences was the opportunity to open for Larry the Cable Guy. He has appeared on hit TV shows such as “American Crime Story”, “Ballers”, “The Mindy Project”, “Californication”, “Desperate Housewives”, and “How I Met Your Mother”. Recently, he played the very challenging role of Sweeney Todd with YST at Fremont Centre Theatre and was known to whip out a mean Jack Nicholson impression.

PHOTO: Marie LaFranque | South Pasadena News | Jack Bennett as Sweeney Todd

YST, after losing their permanent space in 2010, had been a nomadic group, producing shows in whatever theatre they could rent for each production until 2015 when they found and fell in love with Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena. Since arriving in South Pasadena, YST has produced over 60 shows involving hundreds of young actors. Jack acted as treasurer of the board, artistic director, co-producer, set designer and builder, director, acting and improv teacher, maintenance man, front of house, program designer – and was instrumental in helping bring the company through the pandemic with creative live zoom productions and live streaming of full productions.

PHOTO: Gloria Bennett | South Pasadena News | Jack J. Bennett teaching and directing over Zoom during the pandemic.

Jack loved nothing more than being with the kids. His heart was broken over what the kids went through during lockdown. He wanted to do all he could to bring what they loved to them, even in isolation. These were his theatre children and he laughed with them every day. Gloria says, “he used to tell the kids when they would be telling funny stories “go put that in your book”. After his passing, many of the children gathered and wrote their stories in books in his honor.

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | | YST directors Jack Bennett and Gloria Bennett with choreographer, Mirai Booth-Ong

Jack Bennett was an avid dog lover who knew every dog’s name in his whole building. And the dogs knew and loved him. Jack was the kind of person where everyone from the doorman to the building manager, from the security guard and checkers at the grocery story to postal workers and restaurant workers –  they all knew him by name and loved sharing a laugh and a story with him. Everyone has a Jack story, that much is clear.

PHOTO: courtesy of the Jack J. Bennett family | South Pasadena News | Actor director Jack J. Bennett

He enjoyed pumping iron, bike rides, snow skiing, and ending every day sitting with his wife Gloria bingeing TV show and movies – He always said that this was his favorite time of every day. He enjoyed being on stage and making people laugh. His final role was his dream role of Harold Hill in “The Music Man”, directed by his wife Gloria and he shared the stage with his daughter Miranda Miller (she acted as musical director and was part of the school board quartet). Jack J. Bennett played Harold Hill for three unforgettable performances of the show – to his great delight. His mother had flown out and was blessed with the gift of being in the audience for his last performance on April 22, 2022. His final, quiet moments were spent at home with his wife Gloria on the morning of April 23.

PHOTO: Faith Knapp | South Pasadena News | Jack J. Bennett and Liz Kelly Barone star in Young Stars Theatre’s production of The Music Man on stage at Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena.

A viewing only, will be held at Cabot & Sons Funeral Home on Thursday April 28, 2022 located at 27 Chestnut Street, Pasadena, CA 91103. The time is 5pm-6:30pm. This will be the only viewing opportunity to see Jack. Please feel free to stop by anytime in this time frame. There will not be a service at this time. You can attend the viewing and/or service, which will be the following day.

The celebration of life service will be held on Friday April 29, 2022 at 6pm at North Hollywood Church of Religious Science, located at 6161 Whitsett Avenue, North Hollywood, CA 91606. Family and friends are kindly invited to attend a reception immediately after the service, at the church.

In lieu of flowers, family and friends have created a GoFundMe account to assist Gloria and Miranda as they forge ahead to keep Young Stars Theatre and Jack’s dream alive.