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Thomas N. Bentley; 1932-2014: Engineer was chairman of family firm


Thomas N. Bentley


Thomas N. Bentley, who was chairman and chief executive of a construction and engineering firm his great-grandfather founded in the 1880s that built downtown Toledo landmarks and area factories, hospitals, and power plants, died Jan. 14, in his Ellicott City, Md., residence. He was 81.

He had cancer, his wife, Gill, said.

The couple moved about two years ago from Perrysburg Township and shared a house in Maryland with their daughter and son-in-law, Beverly and John Carroll, Jr. The Bentleys for years lived on East Second Street in Perrysburg.

He was the fourth generation to lead what became A. Bentley & Sons Co., begun in the late 1800s by his great-grandfather, Anderton Bentley, who'd emigrated from Yorkshire, England.

The firm was responsible for construction of such downtown landmarks as the Nicholas Building and the Secor Hotel and worked on the Acme power plant in East Toledo and the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. Its projects included Toledo Hospital and the Toledo Museum of Art and the Libbey-Owens-Ford plant in Rossford and the restoration of Fort Meigs.

“He held very dearly to basic integrity in building something that was going to work and stand and last,” his wife said. “That was part of his credo and was certainly a credo of his family and the type of business they were in.”

He attended Yale University and received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Toledo. But his education continued, his wife said, through his 38-year tenure with the Army Corps of Engineers, active duty and reserve; his time spent at the Army War College and the Army’s command and general staff school, and in the small company management program at Harvard University’s business school.

He brought in the company’s first mainframe computer.

“It was a different approach,” his wife said. “It wasn't simply building a bridge, but how you put together a team to approach a building program and cost it out and manage it and ideally be solvent at the end of a job.”

His late brothers, Anderton L. “Pete” Bentley, Jr., and Lawrence Bentley, also were active in the firm. The company voluntarily liquidated in 1982.

He was born Feb. 20, 1932, to Hilda and Anderton L. Bentley. He was a graduate of the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa.

He was a former commanding officer of the 983rd Engineer Battalion of the Army Reserve and with the Army Corps of Engineers served in Germany, Savannah, Ga., and Washington. He retired as a colonel and had earned two distinguished service medals.

Mr. Bentley had an acute interest in military history, archaeology, and antiquities. The Anderton Bentley Fund, of which he was a chairman, was a benefactor of the Toledo Museum of Art.

He also was a hunter and trained German wired pointers as hunting dogs.

"He was an excellent marksman," said Carter Smith, a longtime friend. Mr. Bentley and Mr. Smith were among the founders of the former Ring Neck Ridge Hunting Club near Gibsonburg, Ohio.

Mr. Bentley and his wife had vacation homes at Lake Leelanau, Mich., and Delray Beach, Fla.

“He was interested in conservation and wildlife habitat, and walking with a dog was his great pleasure, not necessarily shooting,” his wife said. “He explored all over Florida by kayak, and what he loved to do was to take photographs of bird life.”

He was a former officer of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Surviving are his wife, Gill Bentley, whom he married Feb. 23, 1963; daughter, Beverly Bentley Carroll; son, James Thomas Chamberlain Bentley, and five grandchildren.

A celebration of life in Ohio is pending. Arrangements are by the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg. The family suggests tributes to the conservation program at the Toledo Museum of Art; Leelanau Conservancy, Leland, Mich., and the Wounded Warriors Project.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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