A 79-year-old champion rower and scion of the Bentley family, which owned a leading Toledo engineering and contracting firm, died yesterday morning while training for this year's world crew championships.
Police said a passer-by saw the floating body of Anderton L. "Pete" Bentley, Jr., of Perrysburg Township, in the Maumee River near downtown Toledo shortly before 8 a.m.
His body was near the boat launch on the International Park side of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge, and was floating close to his capsized one-seat rowing shell, Sgt. Phil Toney said. Toledo firefighters pulled the body out of water.
Police are investigating the death as an accident.
Based on Mr. Bentley's sign-in log in the Toledo Rowing Club's boathouse, where he stored his boat, police believe the accident occurred between 6:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m.
It is unclear whether Mr. Bentley was starting or ending his workout. An autopsy is scheduled for today at the Lucas County Coroner's office.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday said Mr. Bentley and his family "contributed immensely to the Toledo community" through the family construction company, and also as a founder of the Toledo Rowing Foundation.
A structural engineer and executive for the former A. Bentley & Sons Co. in Toledo, Mr. Bentley was a national-level rower in his youth and in retirement became the Toledo Rowing Club's oldest member and one of its most decorated.
He represented the club in numerous age-group crew races, both as an individual and with teammates. He often returned from competitions with gold, silver, or bronze medals for his age division.
Mr. Bentley won three gold medals at last year's U.S. National Masters Championship Rowing Regatta in Oak Ridge, Tenn., then won another gold in September at the World Masters Championship Regatta in Zagreb, Croatia.
His wife, Carol Bentley, said he seemed to be in great health and was practicing for this year's national and world competitions when he set out from home yesterday for the boathouse.
"He was working out to get in shape for the nationals, which is dying with your boots on - the way he wanted to go," she said.
Mr. Bentley trained almost every day. If he wasn't on the water, he could be found working furiously on an indoor rowing machine at the YMCA Fort Meigs Center For Health Promotion.
He was a past president of the rowing club and he belonged to a group that in 1984 formed the Toledo Rowing Foundation to help promote amateur rowing in northwest Ohio.
"Mr. Bentley devoted his life to the sport," said James Skelding, president of Toledo Rowing Club. "He was a man full of creative and entertaining rowing stories. He was just a joy to be around."
His son, Anderton Lewis Bentley III, said that with work and family commitments, his father gave up crew for about 30 years from the 1950s to the early 1980s. In the interim he took up jogging.
He was the executive vice president and chief engineer of A. Bentley & Sons Co. in 1982, at the time of its voluntary liquidation. While he continued to work as a consulting engineer, he finally had the time to row seriously again.
"Whenever he got into something, he had a tendency to push it as hard as he could," his son said.
He was a past president of the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers and the Toledo chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Born in October, 1928, as Anderton Lewis Bentley, Jr., he was one of three sons of Anderton L. Bentley, Sr., and Hilda Bentley. His great-grandfather, Anderton Bentley, came to America from Yorkshire, England, and in 1887 founded what became A. Bentley & Sons.
The engineering and general contracting firm built many of Toledo's most prominent factories, office buildings, and bridges, including the Spitzer and Gardner buildings, the first Edward Ford Glass Co. plant, and St. Paul's Methodist Church.
It also completed work on Toledo's first skyscraper, the 17-story Nicholas Building that, until recently, housed Fifth Third Bank's local offices.
Mr. Bentley grew up in Eagle Point Colony in Rossford, and like his father went on to attend both The Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., and Yale University. In 1947 he was introduced to rowing while a college freshman.
He rowed for Yale through his three years there, and later transferred to the University of Toledo, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.
Mr. Bentley continued to train seriously, and in 1952 traveled with the U.S. Olympic team to Helsinki as a "spare" rower, although he did not compete, his wife said.
Back home, Mr. Bentley in 1953 received a master's degree in structural engineering from the University of Michigan, and that same year married.
With a burgeoning career and soon a family of his own, Mr. Bentley then put his rowing career on hold for what became 30 years.
Mr. Bentley began as a survey engineer in the family business, rising to the jobs of supervisor and superintendent.
He developed a specialty in deep-foundation engineering, his wife said, and worked on various bridge and power plant projects.
Among Mr. Bentley's many friends was Phil LeBoutillier, a lifelong supporter of rowing and sailing in Toledo who died in 1995. He was also close with Mr. LeBoutillier's son, George, who said he always marveled at Mr. Bentley's rowing accomplishments.
"If you were a 22-year-old athlete and you competed in the world championships, and you came home with a gold medal, everybody would know about that," he said. "But if you do it at 75 and come home with a gold medal, it's little known."
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Bentley is survived by two daughters, Katherine MacPherson and Pamela Thorne, and a brother, Tom Bentley.
Funeral arrangements are pending at the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg.
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