The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) mourns the loss of Chairman Emeritus George Benjamin, even as we celebrate his many contributions to SCI and the mariners we serve. George died on September 21 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, with wife Evelyn at his side. He served as SCI Trustee from 1973 to 2009, including three years as Chairman of the Board.
George’s trustee years oversaw many critical expansions to SCI’s mission, including the construction of the Water Street facility, the relocation of our maritime education centers to Paducah and Houston, and a growing international focus to our commitment to seafarers’ rights.
Douglas B. Stevenson Esq., SCI’s longest-serving employee and the Director of our Center for Seafarers' Rights, recalled George fondly:
"I remember when I was interviewed for the position of CSR Director by George Benjamin and some other board members over lunch at SCI. I was really grilled, and I didn’t get a chance to eat anything. Apparently I satisfied George and the others. George was really devoted to SCI and to its work with seafarers, especially their rights. Throughout his time as a board member and chairman, George supported me and encouraged me in expanding CSR’s work internationally. He saw that seafarers’ issues more often than not had solutions outside of New York. He gave me a photo of his flagpole at their Long Island home with the SCI flag proudly flying. He told me that he always flew the SCI flag there."
Perhaps George’s most important SCI leadership test came with the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, just blocks away, on September 11, 2001. Within hours, SCI’s Water Street facility transformed into a first-responders’ respite center, with food pouring in from restaurants around the region, rescuers napping in corners, and a 24-hour chapel holding our city in prayer. George, other trustees, SCI staff and volunteers rallied to provide food and solace for those who worked in harm’s way to get New York back on its feet.
On September 24, George was buried in a private ceremony at his beloved Shelter Island. SCI extends its condolences to Evelyn, daughter Nell and son-in-law Laurence O'Keefe, and his granddaughter, Persephone.
To read his New York Times obituary, click here.
May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon him.
The Rev. David M. Rider, Executive Director and President of SCI