Prominent local businessman just can’t shed the bunny suit

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A prominent Central Texas businessman who was wearing a fluffy, floppy-eared rabbit costume in 1978 at a Halloween party in Austin when he first caught the eye of the woman he’d later marry, donned the same bunny suit for the 41st year on Halloween night.

Businessman Benjy Bauer was wearing a fluffy, flop-eared rabbit costume at a college Halloween party when he first caught the eye of the woman he’d later marry (1983 photo-left) and he was wearing it again this Halloween as he posed for a photo (right) with his two granddaughters. (Family photos)

Benjy Bauer, owner of H&B Packing Company and chairman of the Alliance Bank board, who turned 63 Friday, first wore the costume while he was a student at the University of Texas.

It has survived a 37-year-marriage, two children, two grandchildren and now 41 straight Halloweens.

“It’s the same identical costume,” his wife, Betty, said Friday.

“He hasn’t done one thing to it. He’s taken it to the cleaners one time in 41 years.”

Benjy was a junior at the University of Texas when his sister brought home a stack of Halloween costumes.

By the time it was his turn to pick one, only bunny costume was left.

“He said ‘I guess I’ll have to be the bunny rabbit’ and it was such a huge hit, he’s dressed as one forever,” his wife said.

She and Benjy were both enrolled in a History of Rock and Roll class at UT, but had never spoken.

Until he wore the rabbit suit.

Betty, a UT sophomore at the time, was at the party at which Benjy showed up dressed as a bunny.

“The bunny costume made his eyes stand out,” Betty said.

“You could see his long eyelashes in the bunny costume and they really showed up.”

“I was just so hooked. I just thought that’s a guy who has a lot of courage and good sense of himself.”

And apparently he still does, because he’s turned up in the costume not only on Halloween, but also to mark other milestones, such as his 60th birthday, when the entire family donned rabbit suits in a gesture that brought the usually stoic man to tears.

The suit is also the subject of some comic family lore.

On one frigid Halloween night, for example, Bauer was pulled over for speeding.

“I’m sure the cop got to the window and thought ‘I can’t believe this giant rabbit is driving a car,’” Betty said.

The giant rabbit, it turns out, didn’t have his driver’s license with him, but the officer bought his explanation for not having the ID.

“My husband told him that bunnies don’t have pockets,” Betty said.

The couple’s grown children, Kalize and Kam, grew up with the rabbit and looked forward to the bunny’s annual appearance—usually.

“There were years in middle school and high school where you think ‘this is weird, why is my dad in a bunny costume,’” Kalize said.

When Kam followed his dad’s footsteps and enrolled in the University of Texas, Bauer wore the bunny costume on campus Halloween night.

“He wore it to one of Kam’s college fraternity parties one year,” Betty said.

“It was parents weekend and hundreds of people were there and he walks in a costume. He was the only one dressed up.”

Not surprisingly, among friends and family members Bauer’s nickname is Bunny.

That’s also what his two young granddaughters call him.

“Our granddaughter Emory was giddy last night waiting for him to drive up in it,” Betty said.

Betty says while the costume has not changed, time has taken its toll on both bunny and Benjy.

Some years Benjy has to diet for a week or two to ensure he’ll be able to zip up the suit, Betty said, and the decades-old costume is “dingy, turned almost gray, and the ears and tail have fallen.”

But that won’t stop Benjy from being a bunny.

Not ever.

“We even think one day when he’s gone we’ll probably bury him in his bunny costume,” Kalize said.

“As a family, we love Bunny.”