Anita deBenedictis, realtor whose clients became friends
Signs that she would become a kind and caring woman appeared early in the Quincy girlhood of Anita J. deBenedictis. One example: She would give her allowance to her brother so he could purchase expensive photography equipment and even buy a horse.
Her daughter, Danielle deBenedictis of Milton, Nantucket, and Palm Beach, an attorney and former Massachusetts assistant attorney general, recalled that story of sisterly love — only one among her mother’s countless acts of kindness, not only for her family but to strangers.
Her brother would become world-famous as Luis Marden, photojournalist for National Geographic magazine. After she became a realtor, many of her clients became lifelong friends.
Mrs. deBenedictis, who was married for 66 years to real estate attorney Daniel J. deBenedictis, died May 16 of complications of Parkinson’s disease at her Milton home. She was 92 and had lived in Milton for 75 years.
In an e-mail, her husband remembered her as “the most beautiful and loving girl in the world, a devoted wife and mother who made her family’s best interests paramount in her life, a flower among women, never to be replaced, only to be emulated, a very special modern successful woman with old school values.’’
Mrs. deBenedictis was happy to stay close to home, her daughter said, but she encouraged younger generations to follow their dreams. “She encouraged me to travel and see the world, though her favorite place was home,’’ her daughter said.
In 1976, she was treasurer for Danielle’s campaign for Congress against a nine-term incumbent.
“I would say that my aunt was the power behind the throne,’’ said her niece and godchild, Mary Anne Baumgartner of Milton.
“When I had the opportunity to travel and to study in England, it was Anita who advised my mother, her sister, to let me go. Later in life, when I got a job with a construction company in England, Anita supported me again and, there, I also met my husband. My aunt was also the impetus for Danielle going to law school in the early 1970s, when not many women were, and encouraged her running for Congress. Anita was raised by a timid mother, yet, she was the cheerleader of us all.’’
Mrs. deBenedictis’s son, Louis C. of Milton, also an attorney, described his mother as “a kind and gentle person. Mother killed people with kindness.’’
When his father had both day and night jobs — with his law practice and also teaching law — it was his mother, he said, who went to all his athletic events and played table hockey with him.
“When my mother was a little girl,’’ Louis said, “she was scratched on her face by her sister’s cat. Even though she grew up with a fear of cats, when we spent summers in Scituate, in spite of her phobia, my mother allowed me to have a cat for the summer at a rent-a-cat place there.’’
She was born Anita Paragallo in Chelsea and grew up in the Wollaston section of Quincy. Her mother, Celia Pote Paragallo, was a Montessori teacher. Her father, Luigi Paragallo, came from a prominent family in Italy.
She attended Quincy public schools and graduated from Notre Dame Academy when it was in Boston. She attended Lasell Junior College (now Lasell College) in Newton.
She met her future husband when each was meeting relatives on a ship docking from South America just before World War II. He later enlisted in the Marines and earned the Bronze Star while fighting on Guadalcanal.
Danielle said her parents corresponded for “six or seven years’’ before marrying. “Even after 66 years, they were so close and so much in love.’’
Mrs. deBenedictis was a daily communicant at St. Agatha’s Church in Milton, where the couple were married in 1945.
In 1976, when Danielle ran unsuccessfully for Congress, her mother jumped right in. “Though my mother had never worked, she became familiar with federal election forms. At 5 in the morning, she would come with me and my husband-to-be to the Fore River Shipyard to hold up signs and shake hands with workers.’’
“I never could have accomplished what I have in my life without her constant support and love,’’ Danielle said in her eulogy. “When I became an assistant attorney general, she came to all my cases.’’
In 1977, Mrs. deBenedictis and Milton neighbor Barbara Taracevicz started working for realtor De Wolfe & Co. in Milton, from which she retired in 1999. “Anita was a warm, loving person and good friend. She treated her customers almost like family,’’ Taracevicz said.
“When my mother became a real estate broker, she started doting on her clients the way she had always doted on her family,’’ Danielle said. “She would take them home and make them dinner. She would help them find the right school for their children and the right club and neighborhood for themselves. They became friends and part of her extended family.’’
One former client, Rita Mignosa of Nantucket and Naples, Fla., has been a close friend since relocating in Milton with her husband and child in 1982. “Anita was the relocation person. She was petite, extremely energetic, with brown hair, big brown eyes, and a memorable smile. She was a terrific peacemaker among people.’’
“The first week I was home with my son, I came down with the flu. Anita came over with food for three days.’’
Though nonagenarians, both Mrs. deBenedictis and her husband had many young friends. She was a great cook, Danielle said, and before her health began failing, she often hosted guests from the Boston Center for International Visitors.
Mrs. deBenedictis was also an avid reader and loved her book club. “We used to joke that she had read every book in the Milton library during the 75 years she lived in the town,’’ her daughter said.
In addition to her husband, her daughter, and her son, Mrs. deBenedictis leaves her sister, Elizabeth P. Sgarlat of Milton; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.
Gloria Negri can be reached at email@example.com.