Vashon organizations honor Robert Bennedsen

Vashon Island Fire and Rescue will dedicate its new residence quarters in Burton to Islander Robert Bennedsen, who was killed July 18 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, three weeks into his first tour of duty.

And the Bounty Club, a booster club for the Vashon High School’s football team, has already raised enough money in Bennedsen’s name to install visitor bleachers at the stadium field.

The bleachers, which are expected to carry a plaque in Bennedsen’s memory, will be dedicated at a special ceremony at this Friday’s home football game. More money continues to come into the fund, according to VHS football coach Rick Sassara, and other projects in Bennedsen’s name will likely be undertaken.

“It’s been amazing to watch the amount of donations coming in,” Sassara said.

At an Aug. 26 meeting of the board of fire commissioners, the board unanimously approved a motion to name the Burton house after Bennedsen, who served as a volunteer firefighter on Vashon.

Commissioner Ron Turn-er, who introduced the motion, said it seemed like an appropriate way to honor the young man, who showed the same bravery in helping others in Afghanistan as he did on Vashon as a volunteer firefighter.

“He was introduced to the idea of helping the community by the fire department. … It came natural to him as the result of the training and upbringing that he got here on this Island,” Turner said.

The residence, which sleeps four, will begin use in October and will help to decrease the department’s response time to Maury Island and southern Vashon Island.

Though a name for the house has not been chosen, Bennendsen’s name will be inlcuded in the title, said assistant chief George Brown.

Islanders will be able to tour the residence at an open house on Oct. 9. A date for the house’s dedication has yet to be chosen.

Brown said he was glad the department could honor Bennedsen in such a way.

“We think Robert would like it because (Burton) was his home station, where he did most of his training and responding out of.”

Scott Bennedsen, Robert’s father, said he and Robert’s mother Tracy were pleased that the fire department was naming its new house after their son. “He loved the fire department,” he said.

Tracy Bennedsen said she’s been deeply moved by the community “outpouring of love and support.” Among the contributions made to her son’s memorial account was a $4,000 check from his platoon in Afghanistan.

“It just amazes me. I’m shocked. I shouldn’t be, but I am,” she said.

Bennedsen, a 2004 graduate of VHS, was a football star and wrestling champion during his years at the high school. Sassara said the bleachers seem like a good way to honor him.

“It’s something the community can use,” he said. “And it’s something that’s lasting.”

—By Leslie Brown and Natalie Johnson

A ceremony dedicating the bleachers and retiring Robert Bennedsen’s jersey number will be held before the football game at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Wristbands with Bennedsen’s name on them will be for sale as part of the fundraiser for his memorial fund.

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