Waterford- Wilfred J. Benoit Sr. passed away on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, just five days shy of his 91st birthday.
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He was born on Christmas Day, 1921, in Springfield, Mass., to Joseph L. and Claire (Paquin) Benoit. The family moved to New London the next year. He married Helen Lundwall on June 26, 1946 in Groton.
At Bulkeley School (class of 1939) Bill was a star athlete on the school's football, baseball and swim teams. He worked as a life guard at Ocean Beach in his high school and college years. His love of swimming was life long - he was a regular at the Waterford High School pool until his final illness forced him to stop his morning swims at the age of 86. He received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Vermont in 1943. At UVM he played football and baseball. A freshman walk-on, he was elected co-captain of the football team in his senior year. He was president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, and was honored to be one of their two dancers at UVM's winter carnival. He was also a member of Boulder, UVM's senior honor society.
During World War II, Bill was the chief gunner on a B-29, flying combat missions out of India and the Mariana Islands for General Curtis LeMay's 20th Bomber Command. His crew had the honor of flying in formation over the battleship Missouri when Japan signed the terms of surrender. Deeply patriotic, Bill would always downplay his war years with the simple statement that he did what he had to do for his country.
After the war, Bill worked for several years as the New England sales representative for Nirenberg & Salzman - a fine men's shirt manufacturer. He was a director of the Men's Apparel Club of New England. In 1954, he became the owner of Benoit's, a New London men's clothing store started by his father. Bill built the store into one of the premier men's and women's clothing stores in New England, which he continued to own and operate until 1995, when he sold the store and retired. After he retired, he always enjoyed hearing from his many former customers who would approach him to tell him they still wore this or that item of apparel from Benoit's. The family wishes to express its thanks to the family of his friend, the late Edward Henrici. Ed was with him through all of the store's years, as his trusted and loyal store manager. He was also his daughter Kristine's godfather.
Bill was selfless in his devotion to his family and his community. In 1974, he was elected chairman of the Southeastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce and received its distinguished citizen's award in 1976. He was a corporator of Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, and of the Savings Bank of New London. A member of the New London Country Club for over 40 years, he served as a director and treasurer of the club throughout the 1970s. He was a member of the Connecticut State Senior Golf Association, and passed his love of the game to his two sons. He was a member of the Thames Club, the Kiwanis Club, and the Knights of Columbus. In the 1960s, Bill served on the Waterford Zoning and Planning Commission, and helped found the original Waterford High School Scholarship Committee and Waterford Athletic Association. When his children were growing up, Bill served in many capacities related to their activities: Cub Scout Master; president of Waterford Little League North; president of the Waterford Babe Ruth League - to name but a few.
Bill's greatest joy in life was his family. For Bill, family defined the purpose of life. His own needs never competed with those of his family. His judgment was rock solid, and his children all benefited from his unselfish and unerring advice - which had one simple theme - always take the high road and do what is right. His family's happiness and love of being together meant everything to him. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s he rented a ski house in Stowe, Vermont for the entire month of February - so that his family could be together. Bill loved a party because he loved people - he especially enjoyed pre-meal family gatherings over cocktails. Bill loved to sing his college songs to his family and friends at parties - to their and his great pleasure.
Bill is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Helen; three children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild; his son, Wilfred J. Benoit Jr. and his wife, Sarah, of Sudbury, Mass. and their two adult children, Hillary Benoit, and Alex Benoit; his daughter, Kristine B. Drew and her husband, John, of Waterford and their three adult children, Jeff Drew, Anders Drew, Kate (Drew) Magboo and her husband, Ron, and their son, Troy; and his son, Gregory A. Benoit and his wife, Lauren, of Waterford and their two adult children, Maxwell Benoit and Brooke (Benoit) Barnes and her husband, Christopher.
He was predeceased by his two sisters, Carmen M. Reeves and Alice J. Bottinelli; and his brother, Leonard A. Benoit.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, at St. Joseph's Church, Squire Street in New London. Burial will be private. There will be no calling hours.
In lieu of flowers, donations to his memory may be made to the "UVM Fund", and mailed to: The UVM Foundation, 411 Main St., Burlington, VT 05401.
Please visit www.byles.com for directions, sign the guestbook or share a memory.
Published in The Day on Dec. 23, 2012