Posts made in April 7th, 2010

Villa Am Meer, Chapter 5


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You know, it’s odd… how I fell into this crazy obsession. I really can’t explain what has driven me to stay up until all hours digging for information about a vintage beach house that isn’t remotely connected to me or my family. All I really know is… I love it. It just feels right, and I can’t explain it any better than that.

So, you can about imagine my excitement when I received a message from one of Elena Duke Benedict’s granddaughters this past week. At last! A real, live human connection to my house… someone who could finally tell me what I had wanted to know all along… what was it like to live in that special place?

Her name was Cristina, and she didn’t disappoint. She shared this information about her grandmother and life at Villa Am Meer:

Was just alerted to your blog by my sister this week. My grandmother’s maiden name was Elena Amaducci, and her parents were the Italian gardeners to the wealthy and childless German Kohls who fell in love with her and made her their legal ward. I love this house and still remember the lavish dinner parties and long summer evenings spent in the back courtyard facing the sea as the sun went down… (you should have seen the inside in the height of its day!) My family has made deals with the developers that the house will remain ‘historically intact’ but it’s still hard to see our old beach house being torn up. My mother Elene Benedict-Smith has much more information on the mysterious and fantastic back story of the lot and the building of the house (all that stained Venetian glass!)

I was giddy! This message was a real treasure in more ways than one. First, I had found someone who had a direct connection to my house and was willing to share its stories with me. But perhaps even more importantly, she had taken the time to seek out, read, and comment on my blog. It almost made me feel… well, like a real writer.

But my giddiness ended abruptly when I read the next two lines from Cristina…

Alas, this week it pains me to say that my Grandmommy, herself, passed away at the age of 93. The funeral will be held this Wednesday in New York.

This Wednesday. That’s today. Cristina’s Grandmommy, Elena Duke Benedict, died this week, and her funeral was today.


I always tell my children to pay attention to goosebumps, because they’re not really goosebumps at all. They’re Godbumps, and they happen when God is trying to tell you something. With that in mind, I do believe God has had a hand in this, though for what reason, I have absolutely no idea. But I believe I’ve done something good here…. something good for the Benedict family, and something good for me. I don’t know what it is yet, but I trust the Godbumps.

So tonight, I will say a special prayer for the Benedict family as they say goodbye to their mother and Grandmommy. May you find peace in your memories. God bless.

Elena Duke Benedict, aged 93, businesswoman, mother and philanthropist died peacefully surrounded by family in Greenwich, CT, on March 30, 2010. She had homes in Longboat Key and Palm Beach FL, Manhattan and Purchase, NY. Mrs. Benedict, the daughter of Maria Stella and Romeo Amaducci, was born in Harrison, NY. She attended Columbia University and was graduated valedictorian of her class at the Swedish Institute of Physiotherapy in Manhattan. Mrs. Benedict was Chairman of the Board of Adron, Inc, and CEO of Duke & Benedict, Inc and was one of the founding co-owners of Tropicana Products. Mrs. Benedict, the owner of Tilly Foster Farms, was active in thoroughbred breeding and racing and was co-chairperson with Penny Chenery for 8 years of The Travers Ball benefiting Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine and Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Her generosity in helping scores of young people to achieve higher education was renowned. In 1979, she donated the island of Buck Key, FL to The Nature Conservancy as a gift from the Benedict Family to the people of Florida. She was an Honorary Chairman of the March of Dimes and was a benefactress of the Metropolitan Opera, Greenwich Hospital and the Baptist Home for the Aged. She was an inveterate traveler and in her later years enjoyed her home and its gardens and her daily excursions with her devoted driver and friend, George Daher. She loved her dogs and flowers, her home of 64 years, her friends and her loving family. Mrs. Benedict was preceded in death by her husband, Edward E. Benedict and her daughter Celeste Benedict Pinelli and is survived by five daughters: Elise Browne, Patricia Benedict Ryan, Diane Benedict, Elena BenedictSmith and Verna Neilson, as well as 15 grandchildren and 13 greatgrandchildren. Mrs.Benedict was so loved by her large family who are truly grateful to have known and learned from such a remarkable woman. The viewing will be held at BALLARD-DURAND FUNERAL HOME, 2 Maple Avenue, White Plains, NY on Tuesday, April 6 from 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM.

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