Gary Richard Benacchio passed away on March 6, 2021, at the age of 70.
Before joining his family in heaven, he was in the company of his family here on earth, surrounded by their love and faithful prayer. The story of Gary, however, is not about how he passed. His life story – as anyone who knew him would agree – is one of family, neighborhood, and heart.
Gary was born June 2, 1950, the youngest son of Enrico Benacchio and Marie Alamia Benacchio. It is from them that Gary learned the central value of family. Rico and Marie would always remind him that no matter how much the family grew, the core of Gary, his brother Bob, and his sister Sandra must stay strong and always be there for each other. And that is how it was. Whether in joy or struggle and however long the journey, Gary, Bob, and Sandra remained together.
Over the past difficult weeks, Gary's children, Vincent and Karen, showed just how strongly the value of family lives in them. They are the best parts of their Dad, their Nonee, and their Poppy. They are Gary's pride and joy; you heard it in the way he always greeted Vinnie as "my son," and Karen as "my daughter." You saw it when he left after a holiday or family gathering, saying goodbye with those same words and his trademark hug that was a little tighter and lasted a few seconds longer than you expected. It was his sign of a love for his family that was at times imperfect, but always present and unwavering.
It should come as no surprise that Gary's granddaughters, Sofia, Hannah, and Lucia are the apples of his eye, and how much they unconditionally loved their "Pop." The first things you noticed in Pop's apartment were not furniture or clothing; they were the pictures he had of him and his granddaughters – prominently displayed and carefully kept. You knew that they are what made Pop's eyes the brightest and Pop's heart the warmest.
Gary, Bob and Sandra grew up on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village, or as he called it, "the Neighborhood." Whether you knew Gary for five minutes or five years, his favorite stories were those about the Neighborhood, and you weren't likely to leave his company without hearing one of those stories and a few lessons you could take from his life in the Neighborhood. Five people living in a Sullivan Street walk-up didn't make for much personal space; Gary and Bob slept in the same bed most nights as kids. But random conversations about meaningless things that were so important back then might never have happened in a house where things were "mine" rather than "ours." Gary learned in those years to be his brother's closest friend and his sister's fiercest protector (even though Sandra did a lot of the protecting).
Gary was a graduate of LaSalle Academy and earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Stony Brook University. He will be the first to tell you, however, that his education didn't come from the books he read at those institutions, but from the friends, he made there. One of the things nearest Gary's chair was a reunion photo of him and his LaSalle brothers – another family of which he was a proud member.
>Gary had a talent for creating families and Neighborhoods wherever he went. In 1960, the family bought a house in Sound Beach where they would gather most weekends to spend time together and "work on the house," which generally involved a short time spent on a construction project and a far longer time spent talking in the yard and playing with Gary's Dalmatian, Blaze – a faithful friend like no other. The Sound Beach house stayed in the family for a generation, hosting a growing family of Gary's nieces and nephews, close friends like his neighbors Gloria and Louie and Gary' closest friend Richard, and – especially on July 4th – the Sound Beach community, who would gather for a pig roast in the yard during the day and a "homemade" firework show at the beach at night.
The work Gary loved most was with the Port of New York Authority at the World Trade Center as an Operations Group Supervisor. Gary became part of the family at Mother PONYA quickly; they knew him as a man of character who was quite a character. A conversation or meeting with "Benotch" was full of "Garyisms," and ended with "Capishe?" followed by "Okay, gotta go." At no time were you ever unsure where you stood.
Gary made more things happen at and brought more things in and out of the World Trade Center than one could imagine. His team was part of things as absurd as getting a llama to the Observation Deck, and as deeply meaningful as the annual Toys for Tots drive in the lobby that brought a little light to kids who needed it. Though he was no longer on the Operations team on 9/11, he was at the buildings that day and survived the attack. He spent years after comforting the families of those who were not so lucky. His collection of awards and "souvenirs" from the Towers were never far from his sight, and his PONYA family never far from his heart.
Gary brought the Neighborhood on an overseas tour to the Benacchio family in Italy multiple times over the last ten years. The Benacchio family originated in San Nazario, and Gary was a fixture at the "Benacchio nel Monde" gatherings there, going once with Bob and Sandra. He loved every minute he spent in Italy and was welcomed by family from across the globe. Not surprisingly, they all looked forward to his visits and stories about the Neighborhood and family in America. Gary will be a lasting connection to our family in Italy.
No story of Gary's life would be complete without sharing his time in Hagaman, NY. One of his friends posted about how much he had "added to our little village" in the time he lived there. Gary brought love of family and the Neighborhood there as well: to his friends and CP's and Stewart's, to those who opened their families and homes to him, and to those he was all too happy to chat with, comfort, tutor, and simply share an evening and story or two from the Neighborhood with. It is comforting that Gary's life began in a Village known for family and values and that his last days were spent in Hagaman – a village where he found that same sense of family and values.
Gary passed due to heart failure, but those who knew him know he was a man whose heart never failed. One of a few who remembered Latin, the phrase "vita mutator, non tollitur," ("Life is changed, not ended"), would have special meaning for Gary now. His journey here complete, he is welcomed with love to a new life with those who gave him life. Enjoy telling the angels about the Neighborhood. And please don't ask God if He "Capishes" – He does. Gary was loved in so many places, and we will love him always.
Visitation for Gary will be at Perazzo Funeral Home on Thursday, 3/11/21. Please click the link to sign up for a time slot as there is limited seating due to covid at the wake.
Thursday, March 11
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Greenwich Village Funeral Home
199 Bleecker Street
New York , NY 10012
Friday, March 12
Our Lady of Pompeii in Greenwich Village
25 Carmine Street
New York , NY 10012
Friday, March 12
49-02 Laurel Hill Blvd.
Woodside, NY 11377