When we started Auction House Talk, my father-in-law suggested that, since I was writing about auction houses and the antiques they sell, I should write about him because, at 97 years of age, he was in fact an antique. Well, this is for you, dad.
Patrick J. Benedetto was born in Swampscott, Massachusetts in 1914. He spent most of his life living in Cambridge but he also spent some time in Watertown, Belmont and Waltham before moving to Florida in 1996. Old school with old school values, he grew up during the depression, something that would stay with him his entire life. He would happily spend his last penny on his kids but he would never spend it on himself. Pennies are a nuisance to most of us, but not to my father-in-law. There was a time in his life when having a few pennies would have been like hitting the lottery.
Pat passed away on December 3, 2011. He died peacefully in his sleep after a brief illness. He feared nursing homes because one of his sisters died not long after being placed in one. My husband promised him that he would never put him in a nursing home and thankfully we were able to keep that promise.
He was a welder by trade. During WWII, he worked in a shipyard refitting war ships in need of repair. He was considered more valuable as a welder than he ever would have been as a soldier. If not for welders like my father-in-law, the United States would not have had much of a Navy.
Family was everything to him. He worked hard his whole life and he went home to his family every night. He wasn’t into socializing with his friends after work over a cold beer, he was interested in sitting down to dinner with his wife and kids and then reading the newspaper in his easy chair.
Pat worked very hard to provide for his family and to buy them their own home, which was the real American dream back then. When his wife became ill and passed away in 1966, Pat was left with a pile of medical bills. He never complained. He never asked for help. He never thought about telling the doctors and the hospital that he just didn’t have the money. Instead, he quietly sold the house he had worked so hard for and paid off every single penny – lots and lots of pennies.
Pat insisted that my husband, Dick, get the education he never had. He sent him to Boston College High School. From there, Dick attended and graduated from Boston College. Pat was proud that his son had a college education but he didn’t think that was enough. It wouldn’t hurt for Dick to know how to do other things. Pat taught Dick everything he knew about everything. When he was done, there wasn’t anything on a car that Dick couldn’t fix and there wasn’t a piece of machinery that Dick couldn’t figure out how to fix. He even taught Dick the welding business.
Not only was Pat close to his own sisters and their families, he remained close to his in-laws for the rest of his life, even though he had been a widower for over 45 years. His mother-in-law and father-in-law had four kids, my mother-in-law being the oldest. After they had the last one, they waited thirteen years and then suddenly had two more. Pat loved telling the story of how he would take Dick’s uncle Tommy around town with him. He got a big kick out of introducing Tommy as his brother-in-law. Of course, during the introductions, Pat would be holding Tommy’s hand because Tommy was only two years old.
Pat lived with my husband and me for the last 22 years. Right after we threw a big 75 th birthday party for him, I asked Dick if he thought his father would want to live with us instead of living alone. Dick said his father was very independent and would never want to live with anyone else, unless he had to. Expecting to be turned down, we asked anyway. Actually, I was the one who asked. I no sooner had the question out of my mouth when he jumped right in and said “Okay!”
Not only was he a pretty good roommate, he was a great traveling companion as well. Over the years, the three of us took a number of trips together. One time when we were in San Francisco, we were walking up one of the hills San Francisco is famous for. Being a smoker, I was huffing and puffing my way up the hill. I was about ready to tell Pat and Dick to just leave me there to die when Pat shouts down from the top of the hill, “Do you want me to come down and help you?” Pat was 81 and I was 47.
You can better understand Pat when you know what kind of hearty stock he came from. His mother had a huge garden. She grew every vegetable imaginable – she even grew fig trees. She also raised chickens. Not only did the garden and livestock put food on her table, she sold some of her produce to local markets. One day, her prize chicken just up and collapsed and appeared to be dead. Refusing to lose her best egg layer, she gave the chicken a tracheotomy. The operation was successful and the chicken lived to lay many more eggs. She was quite a woman and her son was quite a man.
Rest in peace, Dad. We miss you.
Written by Anne Benedetto 12/14/2011