Legacy Five's Bennett loses battle with leukemia

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — Roger Bennett, a prominent Southern gospel musician who played keyboard for Legacy Five and The Cathedrals, died March 17 after a long battle with leukemia. He was 48.

According to Legacy Five's Web site, Bennett died in the morning with his wife Debbie by his side.

He was diagnosed with leukemia in 1995. Last fall, he underwent his third bone marrow transplant in a Houston hospital.

Bennett began his professional career in 1979 when he joined The Cathedrals, a legendary Southern gospel quartet. With the exception of a two-year stint as president of Journey Records, he performed with the group until they retired in 1999. Bennett continued his craft with fellow Cathedral artist Scott Fowler by founding Legacy Five, which in 2004 was voted the Favorite Traditional Male Quartet by readers of Singing News.

In addition to the keyboard, Bennett was an accomplished singer and songwriter. He was voted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Fans frequently named him "Favorite Pianist."

A year earlier, fans honored Bennett in a deeply personal way by raising more than $600,000 for his medical care. After learning Bennett's insurance company would not cover the cost of a scheduled bone marrow transplant, Fowler made a plea to Legacy Five fans. The money was raised in just over a month. Using his blog, Fowler asked fans to send in $20, but the average gift was $70. At one point, $16,000 was coming in a day.

In a note to fans and friends, his widow, Debbie, thanked everyone for their support.

"It has, naturally, been a very hard couple of days for those of us left behind," Debbie wrote. "However, I am overwhelmed by the grace God has poured out on me. I feel a multitude of emotions simultaneously: grief, heartache, and sadness, surely, but also an immeasurable portion of comfort and peace, which I can't explain any other way but God's grace."

She assured fans they had not heard the last of Bennett.

"The legacy he has left behind will go on forever, and there are several projects that he has begun that I feel called to carry out," she said.

In addition to his wife, Bennett is survived by his children, Chelsea and Jordan, and his father, Doug.

The service was March 21 at Brentwood Baptist Church. Jordan, Roger's son shared a special "Goodbye" song for his dad. The service ended with a video presentation of Legacy Five singing "We are Home."

The family requests that donations be made to the Gospel Music Trust Fund, P.O. Box 144, Goodlettsville, TN 37070 "in memory of Roger Bennett"... the family will receive a list of your contributions from the trust fund.

Published, April 2007