Remembering John Bentley

John Bentley

Optimistic, engaging, freethinking, creative, lover of nature – those were among the qualities of internationally known landscape architect John Alden Bentley, who passed away peacefully March 26, surrounded by family in his Cincinnati home.

By Green Umbrella,

Published April 4, 2023

John Bentley
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Source: Cincinnati Enquirer

Remembering John Bentley

Optimistic, engaging, freethinking, creative, lover of nature – those were among the qualities of internationally known landscape architect John Alden Bentley, who passed away peacefully March 26, surrounded by family in his Cincinnati home. Bentley, 82, was born in New York City and grew up the youngest of three boys in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His father, Alden Cody Bentley, was a pilot who died in 1942 – 15 months after John was born – while testing a B-26 aircraft during World War II. He was raised by his mother, Marion Windisch Bentley, the granddaughter of Conrad Windisch, founder of Windisch-Mulhauser Brewery, Cincinnati’s second biggest brewery in the late 1800s and one of the largest in the U.S. His family’s proximity with American history was extensive and included Buffalo Bill Cody, the first cousin of John’s grandmother, Josephine Cody Bentley. John was a direct descendant of his namesake John Alden, a cooper on the Mayflower, who was among the Plymouth Bay Colony’s most active public servants and, upon his death in 1687, the last surviving signer of the Mayflower Compact.

Bentley was a graduate of the Fay School and Tabor Academy, both in Massachusetts. In 1962, he earned his undergraduate degree in landscape architecture from Penn State, one of the nation’s leading universities in the field, and in 1964, a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Michigan. At the age of 27 with the firm Sasaki Strong Associates, his first significant undertaking was as Project Manager for La Ronde, the extensive entertainment complex that is now the only remaining portion of the Expo ’67 World’s Fair in Montreal. During his nearly 50-year career in Cincinnati, Bentley founded several firms, including Bentley Koepke, Inc., mentored many in his field, and created and executed landscape design for the Cincinnati region’s most prominent and award-winning projects including the Procter & Gamble World Headquarters Gardens & Plaza, Piatt Park, the Hamilton County Courthouse, Great American Ballpark, the Cincinnati Public Library Main Branch and numerous others. He was a fellow with the American Association of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the highest honor in the profession. He was also a former President of the Ohio Chapter of ASLA, former President of the Ohio Landscape Architecture Examining Board, and associate member of the AIA, Cincinnati Chapter. His civic involvements in Cincinnati included being Indian Hill Green Areas consultant for 42 years and a founding board member of Green Umbrella. He was also a member of the Ohio Arts Council founding advisory group, the Cincinnatus Association, the Cincinnati Preservation Association advisory board, the Ohio River Development Commission advisory board, Clean Cincinnati, Cincinnati Beautiful, Urban Forestry Board, Friends of Cincinnati Parks Board, and the Village of Mariemont Architectural Review Board. He was a vestry and session member of Indian Hill Church and a member of both the Civic Garden Center and the Cincinnati Nature Center. As involved as he was in Cincinnati, his most cherished place was the Les Cheneaux Islands in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where he was a lifelong summer resident. He could often be found sailing the bays and channels of the 35 islands or puttering aboard his classic Herreshoff sloop. He was a past board member of both the Les Cheneaux Yacht Club and the Les Cheneaux Islands Association, but he was best known for the gardens of his family cottage and the magnificent flowers that adorned its signature blueberry-colored boathouse. In a community of natural enthusiasts, his appreciation of the islands’ beauty was unsurpassed. His final wish, which was not to be, was to survive pancreatic cancer long enough to experience one more June in the islands. Unlike most who preferred July and August, June was his favorite month there because it was the time when life burst forth again in that brief but beautiful northern summer.

After a day spent with his wife and daughters, planting flowers or carving wood or stone into novel creations, he liked nothing more than sitting with family and friends on the elevated, white front porch of his cottage, looking through the treetops to the miles of blue water beyond. He is survived by his devoted wife Helene (nee Sullivan), sons Adam of Toronto, Ontario and Stephen of Kamloops, B.C., daughters Anna (Brendan Bogosian) of Cincinnati, and Rachael, of Boston, three granddaughters, nephew Alden Bentley, nieces Lisa, Alison and Sandra, numerous extended family members and countless friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Paul and Bill, and by his nephew Christopher Bentley. A Celebration of Life will take place from 1-4 p.m. Friday, May 12 at the Meshewa House at Turner Farm, in Indian Hill, Ohio. Memorials may be sent, in memory of John Alden Bentley, to: The Green Umbrella, P.O. Box 14270, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45250, and to the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, 2715 Reading Road, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45206.

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