Monday, February 13, 2006
Peter Benchley has passed away.
NEW YORK (Feb. 12) - Peter Benchley, whose novel "Jaws" made millions think twice about stepping into the water even as the author himself became an advocate for the conservation of sharks, has died at age 65, his widow said Sunday.
Wendy Benchley, married to the author for 41 years, said he died Saturday night at their home in Princeton, N.J. The cause of death, she said, was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive and fatal scarring of the lungs.
Benchley, the grandson of humorist Robert Benchley and son of author Nathaniel Benchley, was born in New York City in 1940. He attended the elite Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, then graduated from Harvard University in 1961. He worked at The Washington Post and Newsweek and spent two years as a speechwriter for President Johnson, writing some "difficult" speeches about the Vietnam War, Wendy Benchley said.
A 1974 article in People magazine described Benchley as "Tall, slender and movie-star handsome, with eyes like the deep blue sea." The author's interest in sharks was lifelong, beginning with childhood visits to Nantucket Island in Massachusetts and heightening in the mid-1960s when he read about a fisherman catching a 4,550-pound great white shark off Long Island, the setting for his novel.
Besides his wife, Peter Benchley is survived by three children and five grandchildren. A small family service will take place next week in Princeton, Wendy Benchley said.