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William L. Bennett collection

Identifier: Collection 298

Scope and Contents

This small collection of items of historical interest to William L. Bennett includes additional unique visual evidence of Grand Rapids citizens, places and activities. Those items on the loose item pages have each been described in this finding aid. However, there are several unique images included in some of the scrapbooks which do not have item level description. The other materials included in this collection suggest some of Bennett's wider historical research interests but are not expected to represent comprehensive coverage of his historical knowledge of the greater Grand Rapids area.


  • no date


Biographical / Historical

Born August 21, 1912, in Lansing, Michigan, William (Bill) L. Bennett was born to William R. and Ada Vasbinder Bennett. From Lansing, the family moved to Saginaw, and from there went on to Grand Rapids, Michigan. William graduated from Central High School in 1930, and went on to Haney Commercial College (now Davenport University). He then married Francis A. Metcalf on September 10, 1938, and with Francis had two children: one daughter, Kathleen M. and one son, Charles W. Bennett. Their family attended Westminster Presbyterian Church, where William was very active. While taking night classes at Haney, Bennett was working at a pig-iron and coal producing company that was located in Grand Rapids. By 1941, there were rumors that Michigan's forests were beginning to give out and the company was moved to Cleveland. After this, William became a licensed funeral director in 1942, and worked as Secretary of Metcalf's Funeral Services, Incorporated, (now Metcalf & Jonkhoff Funeral Services) which was owned and operated by his wife's family.

In his public life, William was very active in his church and Boy Scouts. For the scouts, he was Chairman of the Troop Committee and a member of the God and Country Boy Scout Award Committee for 24 years. For the city of Grand Rapids, he was City Commissioner of one-third of the city area. He worked as treasurer for the Grand Rapids Council of Churches and was also treasurer and recorder of Saladin Temple Shrine. He was a member of the Grand Rapids Kiwanis Club beginning in 1946 and served numerous terms as a director and first vice-president for the club. In 1970, he was elected president of the club.

In his church life, William was the president of the Men's Council, vice-president of the Board of Trustees, Vice Moderator of the Westminster Church Session, as well as clerk of the Session. He was also an author of some books for the church, including Love in Action: A history of Westminster Women's Organizations and Westminster Presbyterian Church: A History. He is also the author of Memories of East Grand Rapids: 1834-1982 and is the founding member of the East Grand Rapids Historical Commission.

For recreation, he enjoyed wildlife and nature, as well as traveling. His hobbies included playing with his grandchildren, reading, woodworking and public and church service. He was a collector of Grand Rapids historical material, as seen in this collection, and donated material that can be seen in the Kiwanis Collection, 312. William L. Bennett died Sept. 24, 2006.


3 Linear Feet (Three boxes)

Language of Materials



William L. Bennett (1912-2006) was an historian from the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. This collection includes historical materials he collected or created, primarily including photographs taken from albums, but also scrapbooks, ephemera and reference documents. Also included is a copy of his publication “Memories of East Grand Rapids, 1834-1982.” The bulk of this collection are the photographs. Bennett was a member of the Kiwanis Club of Grand Rapids, among his other activities. His documents from that organization, also contributed to the GRPL Archives, are described as a separate Coll. 312.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

William Bennett, accession number 1993.024, 1994.023 and 1995.005.

Related Materials

Coll. 312, Kiwanis Club of Grand Rapids: William L. Bennett is also the donor of materials from the Grand Rapids Kiwanis Club, from the period when he was active. This has been processed as a separate collection, and may eventually contain Kiwanis Club data from other donors.

Finding aid for the William L. Bennett collection
Rebecca Mayne
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA