David Bening, a former superintendent of Long Island's historic Sagtikos Manor who excelled at pranks, landscaping and making all manner of friends, died on March 11. He was 61.
The cause of death was sepsis from a ruptured appendix, said his sister, Ellen Schwenzer of Lebanon, New Jersey.
Bening was a West Islip native whose personality combined loyalty and devotion with lightheartedness.
"If you had a problem or you needed something, he would be right there for you," Schwenzer said.
After her 40th birthday, she received a letter from a nursing home seeking her application. She remembers calling her brother, saying, "Can you believe I got an application for a nursing home? . . . And then he started to laugh, and I realized he had pulled a prank on me."
Bening grew up in West Islip, where he attended high school. From 1978 to 2001, he lived at the 17th century Sagtikos Manor in West Bay Shore, which briefly served as the Long Island headquarters for the British army during the Revolutionary War.
The job was ideal -- tapping Bening's landscaping and repair skills, as well as his passion for history and learning. He filled in as a tour guide when needed, his sister said.
While running the manor, David Bening had a parallel career as the security manager of Gardiner Manor Mall in Bay Shore.
There, he befriended children with special needs and created wooden toys, tables and chairs for them, Schwenzer said.
She said Bening was also a talented photographer, with subjects ranging from the Twin Towers to family portraits.
After Suffolk County bought the manor in 2002, Bening moved to Babylon to live with his mother, Muriel Bening. He then obtained a commercial driver's license and began traveling across the country as a trucker.
In addition to his sister and mother, Bening is survived by brothers Robert of North Babylon and Douglas of Chicago.
A March 17 family memorial service was held at Brooklyn's Cemetery of the Evergreens, where his ashes were buried.