1935 – 2002
Dedicated his life to serving others
Bob Benedetto was known to his friends, family and colleagues as a man of extraordinary kindness and generosity. A social worker for over 30 years, Bob began his career as a Paulist father in New York City helping to reunite families with runaway teenagers in the East Village. He was a graduate of the Columbia University School of Social Work and firmly believed in the power of education. He held a doctorate in public administration as well as three master’s degrees. He taught a graduate public administration program for California Lutheran University and gave lectures and workshops on social work issues. His articles were frequently published in Health and Social Work, Rational Living, and numerous other newspapers and magazines.
When Benedetto left the Paulist order in New York, he found soul mate Maryellen who shared his ideals and his view that they were put on this planet to help others. Social work and social justice were the threads that tied their lives, Maryellen also in private practice as a clinical social worker. The couple moved “out west” to Ventura, California to begin a new life of service.
“Dr. Bob” was the chief of Mental Health Services in Ventura County for 26 years serving as director of the Ventura Psychiatric Hospital and Mobile Emergency Team for most of that time. He also created, developed and directed comprehensive Forensic Adult Service programs designed to replace criminalization with treatment for people with mental illness. This program was started to give mentally ill people alternatives to prison and Benedetto was honored by the National Association of Social Workers with a lifetime achievement award for his efforts.
Ventura County’s mental health disaster coordinator for 10 years, he was the clinical coordinator for the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing program. He wrote and administered over millions of dollars in Crisis Counseling federal disaster grants to treat survivors of floods, earthquakes, fires and civil disturbances in Ventura County and elsewhere. Benedetto’s creative abilities and successes inspired colleagues to nickname him “The Master of Disaster.” His teams of mental health counselors organized to listen to the stories of the shocked survivors. They dug the foundations as these victims of tragedy began rebuilding their lives.
Throughout his life, Bob Benedetto constantly helped people who never knew who he was. A man with a sense of humor, ready laugh, New York accent and Yankee devotion, he held an absolute belief in and demonstration of social work, values and principles.