Geoffrey Bennun

 Sometimes things happen, that really make you sit back and consider how the choices you make in your life do determine a path and an outcome.  Geoffrey has been my friend for more than 20 years.  We met when we worked for the hotel management company ‘All Seasons’ as General Managers.  We immediately gravitated to each other because in our own individual ways we are non-conformists.  Over those 20 years our friendship has deepened.  He came to Holland to be with me at my wedding and we would see each other every couple of years as Geoffrey undertook one of his world trips to catch up with all his “good buddies”.

In May, he came to Amsterdam once again where he stayed with Karine and I, before heading off on a Dutch canal cruise for a week with his Australian friends ‘Darling & Darling’.  On Saturday June 5, we all went to Restaurant Dauphine on a beautiful summers evening to celebrate Geoffrey’s 60th birthday, which was that day.  It was very special because he pretended that he didn’t want to celebrate this milestone at all, but you could see that he was very happy.  The waiter took photos of the two of us, arms around each other, happy in the knowledge that we shared a real friendship.  How do I know it was a real friendship, it was simple.  I knew with complete certainty that if I was ever in real trouble I could call Geoffrey and he would come and he would do whatever was in his power to help me.  He also knew that of me.

Geoffrey has had a full, if non-conventional life.  When he was still in his 20’s he set up a Peace Foundation in Vancouver which he passionately believed in, he went on to build a very successful career in hotels, opening a number of 5 star properties primarily in Asia, he ran the Media Village at the Sydney Olympics, was a Director of F&B on a cruise ship and then decided to retire because he was convinced that he would die from cancer at a relatively early age, as had his mother, father and sister.  Every year he undertook a barrage of medical tests in Sydney, looking for any sign that his prediction would come true.  In between regular medical tests he would travel. 

This May/June when we were together we had a lot of conversations about life, death and when he would finally leave his life in Asia and move back to Sydney.  He loved living in Asia, but he found it so limiting and in truth he found that he was lonely.  When I dropped him at Schiphol airport I told him that I will come and see him sometime within the next year and check out his place.  We recently exchanged emails and I agreed to visit him in October, the last email from Geoffrey being 7 days ago.

Why am I writing this story? It is to help me deal with the news today that sometime within the last 7 days, Geoffrey and his friend Abby were murdered in his house in Angeles City in the Philippines.  Following an argument, they were both shot dead with a 9mm  pistol.

I took this photo of Geoffrey in June whilst he was sitting at my dining room table and we in the midst of yet another long discussion.

Geoffrey was a gentle soul and a very kind man.  He always helped out others even when he knew he would never get his money back.  His eccentricity endeared him to a lot of people and he was genuinely loved in return.  He did make a difference to a lot of people’s lives and we have all lost something that will leave a hole in our hearts for a very long time.

I never did get that photo of the two of us at Restaurant Dauphine.

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21 thoughts on “Geoffrey Bennun

  1. I am very, very sorry to hear of this tragic end to Geoffrey’s life. I knew him poriferally and I was very best sister/friend with his lovely, darling sister Yogesha. Geoffrey was at her funeral services at Salt Spring and that was the last time I saw him. He was always very kind to me. I am very sorry for your loss.
    Sincerely and with blessings, Rubiyah Ratna

  2. I never met Geoffrey in person, but knew him through my friends Margaret and Graham (the darlings). I spoke with them a little earlier and they are devastated. I am so sad that this good man is no longer with us.

  3. I only just found out about this and I am devastated. I met Geoffrey when I recruited him several years ago to work on a cruise ship, and the friendship developed from there and we became really good friends. He was unique and led a most interesting and fun life, and I loved hearing his stories and adventures and admired him for his honesty and courage through many tough times. To say I was fond of him is putting it mildly and life will not be the same without him. I really feel as if a big ray of sunshine has been taken away and the world is now a colder place. As a small tribute to him, I am going to publish an email he sent me late last year which made me smile (he had sent this letter to a newspaper). He had a marvelous sense of humor, very dry, and often had me chuckling out loud over his emails. Geoffrey, I will miss you very very much my friend. Wherever you are now, I hope you are enjoying some aromatic crispy duck and good red wine. Cheers.

    Letters to the Editor

    Dear Sir / Madame

    I feel compelled to write to implore you to warn the Australian travelling public that they are in imminent and mortal danger.

    En route to Manila, via Singapore, with only hand-carried luggage, I had my small jar (over 100 mls) of Vegemite confiscated at the security check-point at Darwin airport even though I was not aware Vegemite was a gel or a liquid. As I was told, the rules apparently state that anything that can be spread is subject to confiscation.

    During the following discussion, the security personnel informed me that had I been flying domestically I could have taken this obviously “ highly flammable, unstable substance” on board the plane. The relevant Australian Security Department needs to tighten their security arrangements because if Vegemite is too dangerous to be taken on an international flight then surely it must also be too dangerous to take on board a domestic flight.

    Personally, I would be more suspicious of a person carrying Vegemite domestically, where it is readily available at one’s destination than an international traveller.

    Now I have to confess that at the Singapore Airport I went into the supermarket in Terminal 3 and bought a small jar of Marmite which I kept in my trouser pocket all the way through security and onto my next flight to Manila without incident.

    Regards

    Geoffrey Bennun

  4. I had the good fortune of meeting Geoff many years ago through my husband Harry and quickly developed a friendship that I will always treasure. He loved nothing more than family and friends, keeping in constant touch with them throughout his life travels.
    We looked forward to his yearly visits with us when he came to Canada and will miss those times with him..the laughter, his wry sense of humour and his unique, engaging personality.

    It’s a sad time for everyone lucky enough to have known Geoff but the great memories and love will live on in all of us.

    Condolences to all.
    Barb Oshanski

  5. Harry Oshanski
    Geoffrey and I go back over 40 years and shared a passion for hospitality and food. Nothing made Geoffrey more animated than debating both, and trying to get you to agree with his opinions. When I didn’t , it actually made us closer. His idiosyncrices included peanut brickle ice cream, montreal smoked meat sandwiches, Lick’s burgers, and of course “Aromatic Crispy Duck”. He was a mentor, a friend, a colleague, and just plain good buddy. If you needed anything, and he could provide it, you need not think twice whether he would. A man so passionate about many subjects, who liked nothing better than arguing about them. I had the good fortune to spend time with him last year at my home, with my wife Barbara, and on a “Sideways” reunion tour of Napa California with good friends Bill Greaves and Doug Housely. I will remember that trip with fondness, and it will keep thoughts of him in the forefront of my mind. Geoff, I will miss you dearly, and may you rest in peace. My thoughts go out to his brother Trevor, step brother Timothy, and niece Gypsy, and nephew Jai.

  6. I met Geoffrey way back in 1995 when we both worked for Century International Hotels. Geoffrey had taken on the job as interim GM at the Saigon Century Hotel and we had our annual general managers’ meeting there. Geoffrey was beside me at the meeting table and I sensed immediately that he was far from the stereotype of hotel manager. We developed a friendship and I was pleased that Geoffrey was one of a small group of close friends, all guys, who joined me at my 50th in Bangkok 4 years later. It struck me how sincere Geoffrey was that he was grateful to be included. Over the next years Geoffrey worked on the cruise ship and at the media village, leading a quite unconventional but interesting career. I visited him when he was GM at the Six Senses Hotel at Hua Hin. Every so often Geoffrey would send out a personal update story of his most recent activities and escapades, which I always found fascinating. Geoffrey came to stay at our resort in Bali a couple of years ago, when unfortunately I was travelling. This loss of such a vibrant, slightly eccentric character is a great shock and I am sure many old colleagues will join me in thanking you Geoffrey for your friendship and wishing you well, rest in peace dear friend.

  7. hello Geoff
    for all your wit,
    your humour;
    for telling the bosses the truth (they know who they are) when they were talking B——t,
    for your constant friendship,
    for the meals we shared with Trent and Yogesha in Hua Hin
    for your authenticity and honesty in grief, in work, and in friendship
    thank you, ka.
    for keeping yor head when all about you were losing theirs…….my respect.
    you will be sorely missed
    from your English friend; Sarah
    “There is need for no goodbye’s my friend, for I will carry you within my heart forever”. Gandhi.

  8. I had lunch with Geoffrey earlier this year, by the river in Saigon, Vietnam. He was such a wonderful guy. I’d known him for 7 years, from the time he was GM at the Evason in Hua Hin, and I was finding my feet in S.E. Asia. I remember once walking through the Evason grounds with him and he saw a cigarette butt and picked it up, the GM, picking up a cigarette butt. The little things were important to him. I had remember all the staff at the Evason carried a laminated card on them with Fand B Golden rules (and if you worked with him you will remember these) I asked him to e-mail these to me, as I wanted to use Geoffrey’s Golden Rules at the hotel I was working at. He duly did. I will miss his jokes e-mailed to me weekly, and his very dry wit. Such a tragedy, two lives cut short for such little, a lap top, mobile phones, camera, absolutely futile. I will miss you Geoffrey

  9. Dear Joanne,

    My name is Doug Housley, and I have been a very close friend of Geoffrey since 1977 when we worked together at the Empress hotel in Victoria..where he was my boss and gave me my first job in hotel management. I had met Geoff’s sister Yogesha on a number of occasions although mostly in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I have spent many hours travelling with Geoff and he always spoke of his beloved sister who he absolutely adored. Geoff also kept me informed of all the goings on of Gypsy and Jai who he felt were his only real family. I spoke to Trevor and both Gypsy and Jai last night in Angeles City and they are eager to leave as the whole experience has been so unsettling. At some point in the next few months I will visit Salt Spring Island as one of Geoffrey’s last requests and I’m sure I will meet Jordan at that time. I am Canadian however live in San Francisco now and work as the General Manager of the Four Seasons Hotel here. (the hotel management thing worked out!) I just wanted to reach out and let you know they were safe, as I’m sure how much access they have to e-mail etc. at present…

    Thanks for taking the time to write on the blog.. I’m just not ready to write yet I guess because it would just seem so final…

    all best to you and your family…Doug

  10. I have many , many fond , and often humourous memories of Geoffrey , from my first meeting with him, as a fresh graduate commis chef, working in London for a Royal banquet at the facility which Trevor and I ran….to Father calling me internationally to see if I had seen or heard from Geoffrey ….his tenure at the Empress hotel and the nightclub at the Inn on the Park in Toronto ……
    More recent memories of his summer visits to enjoy BC salmon and range freely on his own , and often unique , perspectives on all issues , and life in general .
    Geoffrey is tragically gone , but will never be forgotten .

  11. To all who’ve known Geoffrey, closely or less-so… I’m so very sorry for your loss. From what I’ve read I can tell he is a very highly respected and well-liked man, with a passion for life and living.

    I have been asked by my Dad, Rick Pomeroy, to write here on his behalf.

    My Dad knew Geoffrey many years ago through working at the Empress Hotel. He phoned me last week utterly distraught over this terribly sad and tragic news. This tragedy has deeply upset him. My Dad asked me to share his deepest sympathies and condolences.

    I apologize profusely if this is an inappropriate place to make such a request, but if there is any information about a memorial gathering of some sort, my Dad has asked me to share that information with him as he would very much like to attend if at all possible.

    Again, our most sincere sympathies to you all, it is truly a tragic and terribly sad loss.

    Sincerely,
    Tracy Coseni, Brampton, ON
    for
    Rick Pomeroy, Sooke, BC

    • Hello Deborah,
      Thank you for your note and the offer of an invitation to the Memorial being planned. With much regret, it isn’t at all possible for either (or both) of us to travel to Australia. We do send our regards to all who attend to honour Geoffrey.
      Thank you again,
      Tracy

  12. I first heard of Geoffrey in 1997 when my then boss Peter Nair & I were in a meeting and it became evident that he needed someone who knew their stuff with the owner getting frustrated by the minute – PN pulled out his phone spoke for a few minutes and looked at the owner and said it’s sorted , I will have someone here tomorrow.

    I was astounded that someone would drop what they were doing and drive 15 hours to help out a buddy , but for those that knew Geoffrey that’s what he did. While helping out his buddy on the sunshine coast I got to know and love Geoffrey , from the minute we met there was something about him, maybe his odd laugh or the continuous debate over trivial things that could turn into hour long conversations, or maybe just the fact that I knew he genuinely cared for his “buddies”

    While on the sunshine coast Geoffrey took time out to go and introduce himself to Maurice Holland at Hyatt Coolum, and that starting the ball rolling for him to be GM at the media village. Geoffrey invited me to watch him run with the Olympic torch , I got to stay at the village pre opening and meet some new friends that Geoffrey had made and catch up with mutual friends. I got to hear my friends stress over some of the decisions that Geoffrey had made and hear all about the Mini Zoo.

    They say there are three types of friends – a reason a season or a lifetime, Geoffrey was definitely a lifetime friend.
    We kept in touch and I have met many of his buddies and heard many stories of his adventures. I recognise names from the blog of people he has introduced me to or spoken fondly of. He was a true loyal and amazing friend, mentor and buddy one which I have many many fond memories of and I will miss immensely but will never forget him.

    Condolences to all

    (PS .I was diagnosed with leukaemia just over a year ago, Geoffrey was the second person I told and when I was sick and scared and a long way from home he got me thru some real tough stuff , he kept me positive, called and emailed me regularly and for that I will always be in debt to him. I am now in remission ! )

    Lou

  13. Hi Lou
    Please see the Memorial Listing on this Blog. I would like to send you an Invitation, please email me on dhelleur@au1.ibm.com
    Also I am tryung to get a contact for Maurice Holland, if you know please let us know.
    Kind Regards
    Deborah

  14. Ive been looking for some news about the Philippine President first SONA (State of the Nation Address) and then a news about the killings in Angeles City caught my attention, as i opened the article i saw the name and it is familiar,, i am shocked and reviewed his profile in a dating site where i first met him to make sure that he is the Geoffrey Bennun i once met ..

    I had a good times with him last year when he had a visit here in Manila.. Hes a very good guy!!! I still can’t believe that he’s gone already, but God has a reason why it happened to him..He told me many stories of him.. Geoffrey wherever you are now just want to tell you that you will always be remember!! I will miss you and will keep our memories in my heart! ! its a honor to met a very nice guy like you.. For his family CONDOLENCE :(..

    Joana

  15. Trevor, my name is Sarah Corkett and I want/need to get in contact with you (sarahcorkett@hotmail.com). I have a personal message for you, and this is the only means I have of getting in touch with you. I will expalin who I am but this site is the place for that. I hope and pray you respond. All my love

  16. GAB and I met in 1990 as GM’s of competing hotels in Sydney. He moved to Indonesia with me as my Resident & F&B Manager and then moved on as GM in a number of Asian properties. May be if I did not take him to Indonesia he would still be with us. GAB became family with our private dinners in the GM’s apartment with food that GAB wanted just to fill his lust for good food, our evening dash to the Hyatt Surabaya’s Japanese Restaurant just so that he and Karen could get their weekly dose of sushi, our evenings in the hotels Gym with GAB trying to lose weight and me dealing with calls from HO and the Owners Rep because GAB pissed off another one of the owners reps – a regular event for GAB!!!!
    From owners rituals to remove ghosts in the hotel to dealing with guest complaints because a ghost attacked them in their room to purchasing a $US800,000 jade statue with 1000 hands to catch ghosts to ordering and placing naked girls as welcome amenities for visiting Directors to having police escorts for $5 to get to the airport on time to dressing up as the Supremes and performing for staff at their annual staff parties, GAB loved crazy ideas and fun times but at the end of the day he was a true hotelier – guest service and standards in the hotel had to be perfect for GAB. He would never accept just OK.
    GAB – “Can I come with you to the monthly meeting with the hotel owner in Jakarta” Peter – Why? GAB – “because I want to have lunch at the Grand Hyatt, Jakarta”.
    Morning ExCo Briefing: Peter – “GAB what’s wrong with your neck” GAB – “I had 3 girls last night and they were spinning me around in the air”.
    Dinner at the Expats Club – GAB –“Look at the great view, we could be anywhere in the world, NY, London, Paris – but no we are in Surabaya”, Peter – “GAB can we go home now as the wait staff are sleeping behind the bar and our driver must be sleeping in the boot of the car, GAB – “I’m sure that they are more comfortable then at home”. But as normal they would have stayed as long as GAB wanted because he would never fail to leave a huge tip with the most sincere “Terima kasih” or as GAB would say “Terima Kissy”
    Dinner Dai-ichi Hotel, Japanese Restaurant, Jakarta 1am – GAB –“ I would like another Runty Nail”, Waiter – “sorry Mr Geoffrey we are closed. GAB then had GM woken up so that he could get a Rusty Nail and get a wine for Karen. Well all the Radisson Pre-opening team got thrown out of the Dai-ichi the next morning. But that was GAB and we loved him for him.
    Peter – “GAB I need you to help me take over a hotel in Australia”, GAB – “I will be there in 24 hours”. Always a friend and would do anything for his friends.
    I can go on with all the memories that we share, GAB I will miss all the crazy things we use to do, the great meals we enjoyed, the great arguments, the great friendship but most importantly the love you had for me and Karen.
    Thank you for always being there for me and Karen even though I was never the best at returning phone calls.
    Looking forward to seeing you again one day.
    I love you – Peter

  17. Pingback: 2010 in review « Paul Draskovich | My Daily Dump

  18. Very belatedly, I have only just found out what happened last year. I hadn’t heard anything about Geoffrey (I knew him as Geoff) since we were both 18 and just last night I was doing a “where are you now” google and with horror found all the obituary messages and the details about his death last year. I spent a very long time catching up with his life through all those messages. He was obviously just the man I knew he was going to be. Huge heart , generous, lovable, wonderful, impossible. My sympathies are with all of you who knew him so well and who I am sure will continue to miss him so much. We first got together whilst we were at Millfield when we were 15 – and then again when we were 16, and then at 17 and then after we left school at 18. Finally sense prevailed – it was volatile! We were twins. At least I thought we were until I read somewhere yesterday that his 60th birthday was on 5th June. I was so sure we were both 3rd June. I remember his Mum telling me about the poetry he used to write. He wasn’t very happy that she told me I seem to recall! I have never forgotton him and never will.

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