COMMUNITY... a living legend lost

April 23rd at 10 am many from the community attended Sacred Heart Church to pay their respects to “Benny”. I’ve referred to the church in a tribute to Larry Crema (Jan 14th 2019) and shared this little treasure of a building. Also there was an August 7, 2017 post mentioning “Benny” and an article written by John Mackie mentioning his legendary status as King of Strathcona.

Ironically, last week’s post ended mentioning the idea of close looking at triangles and circles. These symbols I have used for many many years with the intention of them representing equality (triangle) and community (circle). It has been my way putting out good into the world through a signature of shape — the meaning: looking forward to a time beyond, race, gender, age, sex, and honouring the individual creating community. Ramon Benedetti (Benny) was one such person that left a positive mark on the planet from this hood. He treated people fairly and if he had a beef with you he’d tell you all done with respect and honesty. That is an important voice to have and a big voice to loose.

It’s lovely to see Benny being recognized by media and the community, 1928 - 2019 is a good run. His daughter Francesca Benedetti wrote a lovely tribute to him for the memorial card given at the service. This is what she had to say:

Ramon Benedetti was a renowned figure of Vancouver’s “East End” for decades. He was born, raised, lived and died in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood where he held court on the corner of Union and Princess at Benny’s Market.

He was born on Union Street on May 1, 1928 to Alfonso and Violet Benedetti. As a young boy Ramon attended Strathcona Elementary and graduated from Vancouver Technical high school (Tech). He was an active youth who played baseball, soccer and rugby, and held the title of “Mayor of Maclean Park”. He was an avid music lover and musician. From an early age Ramon took up accordion and played with Len Holland’s Accordion Band. At 16 he began playing trumpet and joined The Jack Smith band, which took him on his first trips outside of Vancouver and into the United States.

In the spring of 1956 Ramon married neighbourhood sweetheart, Irma Miotto, at Sacred Heart Church. In 1957 they gave birth to their daughter Janice, followed by Ramon Jr. in 1961 with Sandra merely a year later. To their surprised their youngest daughter Francesca was born in 1971. Ramon had 6 grandchildren Rheis and Quinten, Chase and Bianca and Carter and Nina AND 3 great-grandchildren Tia, Remi and Rio. Ramon’s love for and dedication to his family and his business was a driving force throughout his life.

Ramon enjoyed spending his leisure time in his condos in Palm Springs and Harrison Hot Springs, but most of all he cherished the company of his family and lifelong friends who affectionately called themselves the “Pal’s Club”. These were Ramon’s childhood friends and their wives: Ray and Pat, Louis and Dot, Joe and Cookie, Dukie and Anita, Tony and Chris, Danny and Lena, Barry and Gina, Ernie and Millie, and Alex and Maxine. The Pals spent many a Saturday night out on the town, either at Foo’s, Puccini’s or Ramon and Irma’s house sharing laughs, building memories and strengthening their friendships.

Ramon’s success can be attributed to his strong work ethic and love of people. During the war he spent his summer breaks working at the North and South Burrard shipyards as a Passerboy and Shipwright’s Assistant. He also worked as a cook on fishing boats for several years before returning to help his parents run Benny’s Market in 1956. Ramon and Irma grew Benny’s from the small ice cream parlour and confection shop of his parents’ time into a booming deli and grocery. Ramon also expanded the business into food supply serving local fishing boats and Vancouver’s finest restaurants. Until recently, Ramon was in the office 6 days a week, alongside his son Ramon Jr. and daughter-in-law Janet, either catching up on paperwork in the office or sitting on the corner chatting up customers and old friends. Ramon’s wit, charm and exuberance for life always drew people to him; whether offering sage advice, telling a joke, serenading customers or recounting one of his many stories. Over the years he and Benny’s have made the news in numerous newspaper articles and TV spots. In the fall of 2017, Ramon was featured in two short pieces by CTV’s Mike McCardell that focused on his courage to overcome adversity.

Over the last decade, Ramon has battled several heath challenges. In 2006 he suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after returning home from work one Saturday evening. Fortunately with Irma’s quick thinking, the persistence of the local fire department, and the medical staff at St. Pauls he was brought back to good health. However, in June 2016, after a long and painful attempt to save his legs, Ramon underwent a double amputation. For months, Ramon fought to recover. The constant love and support from his dedicated family in tandem with his medical team helped him to return home despite the odds. His doctors mentioned they had rarely seen patients of his age recover from a double amputation, let alone return home to live with their families.

Ramon’s generous spirit and love extended into the community of Strathcona where he supported various charities from Strathcona Elementary, to the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement to his beloved Sacred Heart Church - which his family and many Italian community members worked so hard to build. Sacred Heart is the parish where the Benedetti family members have been baptized, married and buried for nearly 100 years. During his times of struggle the parish has been there with much needed support and prayers.

Ramon was grateful to be honored as Confratellanza Italo-Canedese’s 2017 Man of the Year. True to form, he offered a piece of heartfelt advice passed down to him by Nonna Teti… “Eat your steak while you still have teeth!”

by Francesca Benedetti