Jack M. Bentivegna, a family man who fought for his country in the major battles of World War II and opened several restaurants in York County upon his return from war, died Friday. He was 90.
He was known to friends and customers as "Jackie B" and one of his restaurants bore his nickname.
Through the years, he opened many local establishments: The Embers, The Seven Cousins, Jackie B's, The Encore, Town Tavern, Eddie K's and more.
"He was one of York's early entrepreneurs. He connected well with the average Joe and had huge success because he was a people person," said his son Dr. Leonard Bentivegna.
Others knew him as a Marine.
During WWII, Bentivegna fought in Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Guam, and he was a lifetime member of the First Capitol Detachment Marine Corps League.
"He helped the league as much as he could. He was a real patriotic person in York County," said Anthony Stabile, past officer of the league and a friend of Bentivegna's for about 30 years.
Bentivegna was extremely involved in the Toys for Tots program and also enjoyed sharing history with the younger Marines in the area.
"He saw some pretty horrific things, and I think that toughened him up. It made him realize how short life can be, so he came out and attacked life when he got home. He always wore his Marine pins and jackets. He was a Marine until the day he died," his son said.
Bentivegna's service was always evident to his grandson, Chad Chronister.
"My grandfather had such a love for his country and community. He was such a proud Marine," said Chronister, one of Bentivegna's nine grandchildren.
Bentivegna's passion for service inspired his grandson to become a cop.
"I always modeled myself after my grandfather," he said.
The two talked every morning on Chronister's way to work, he said.
"He was the only one I could call at 6 a.m. We started our day together," Chronister said.
Most recently, he was able to share with his grandfather the good news that he was promoted to captain of a police department in Tampa, Fla.
"He was so excited you would've thought it was his promotion," he said.
Bentivegna also inspired his younger brother, Vince - the self-described, 78-year-old "baby of the family" - to go into law enforcement in Tampa, where he worked as a parole officer.
"Our dad died at an early age, when I was 14 or 15, and Jack took over the reins and acted like a father to me. Jack was always good to me, he looked out for me. He was a very good brother, father and mentor," Vince Bentivegna said.
He was also a loving husband, said his daughter, Sandy Bentivegna.
In recent years, his wife, Anna Mae (Vaughn) Bentivegna, was admitted to one of the memory care facilities in Senior Commons at Powder Mill. Even though he didn't need the extra care, he moved there, too. It didn't matter that he was assigned to a different floor, their daughter said.
"They were married 67 years, and he wouldn't part from my mom's side," Sandy Bentivegna said. "I know people always say this when someone dies, but he really was a good man."
He was also good to his granddaughters, who lovingly referred to him as "Nanu."
"He'd come over after work to ask me what new dolls and toys I wanted. I'd tell him, and he'd drive me to Kmart to get whatever it was I wanted that day. He definitely spoiled us," said granddaughter Natalie Rice.
Another granddaughter, Judy Miller, said she always felt "really lucky" around him. "He always made each one of us feel special in his own way," she said.
Another granddaughter, Michelle Lenzi, paid tribute to her Nanu by naming her son after him and her daughter after his mother.
"I was the youngest of his granddaughters, and even in my thirties he was calling me 'baby girl,'" she said.
Among other attributes, she said she will always remember his whistle and the way he could seemingly fix anything.
For niece Leona Grolman, it's the family dinners she'll remember.
"When I was a little kid, we went to his house every Sunday. All the cousins were close, and the whole family would be together. Uncle Jack was a gregarious man and just wonderful to be around," she said.
Sandy Bentivegna agreed her dad was a loud, "go-getter."
"He was a short man, but he had a huge presence," she said.
Funeral details: Bentivegna is survived by his wife; children, Dr. Leonard Bentivegna, Helena Bentivegna, Sandy Bentivegna and Jacqueline Redding; nine grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; and brothers Steve Bentivegna and Vincenzo Bentivegna.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Leonardo and Leonarda (Granata) Bentivegna, and a brother, Charles J. Bentivegna.Viewings will be 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at John W. Keffer Funeral Homes and Crematory Inc., 902 Mount Rose Ave., with a 5:45 p.m. Marine Corps League Rite, and from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph Church, 2935 Kingston Road.
A Mass of Christian burial will begin at 10 a.m. at the church, and burial will be in Holy Saviour Cemetery with full military rites provided by the York County Veterans Honor Guard.
Memorial contributions may be made to the First Capitol Detachment Marine Corps League, P.O. Box 7313, York, PA 17404.
- Candy Woodall can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.