Peter Benson M.D.
1931 - 2020
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Peter A. Benson, M.D.

For 58 years he was a forensic pathologist for San Mateo County 1962-2020. He joked he might be the oldest practicing forensic pathologist in the country, but then discovered a slightly older one somewhere. He died unexpectedly on January 28th, 2020 at his place of work. He was 88.

Born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y on June 19, 1931 to Hjalmar Benson (originally Bengtsson), a Swedish immigrant, and his wife Dihna Lundstead Benson of New York City. He was a graduate of Clark University and the Yale University School of Medicine. He served residencies at Yale and at U.C. San Francisco. In 1968 he volunteered as a physician on the Ship Hope, serving 3 months in Cartagena, Columbia.

In 1959 he married Judith Mason and soon after, they moved to San Francisco for a medical residency. They stayed, and Peter took his job with San Mateo County where he worked for the next 58 years. He and Judy raised their two children, Erica (Charles Constanti) and Jesse (Barbara) in a big old house in a friendly Burlingame neighborhood. They later welcomed two grandsons, Pierce and Nico, with great joy. Peter's attachment to the grandchildren was intense and rewarding to them all.

He was an expert forensic pathologist, someone whom other physicians saw as a kind of sleuth. He loved the detective element of his work, retaining his commitment all his life.

A true Renaissance man, Peter balanced science and art. His appetite for learning new things of all sorts continued throughout his life. A voracious reader, he enjoyed subjects as varied as genetics, history, religion, psychology, and human development. He was a fine painter, and in recent years his turn toward sculpture produced a large number of beautiful assemblages made mostly of wood, but which also include found objects. He loved music, and spent many hours not only enjoying it, but re-listening to many quartets and symphonies to gain greater and greater insights and appreciation.

He is survived by his wife Judy, his two children, nieces and a nephew, two brothers-in-law and a small, tight circle of other family and friends. A man of character, modesty and devotion, he did like an occasional party. Though not a practicing Buddhist, he had in recent years followed the basic teachings of the Buddha, hence a memorial is planned at the Buddhist Temple, 2 S. Claremont Street, San Mateo on Saturday February 15th at 3 PM. In lieu of flowers, perhaps consider a donation to Planned Parenthood, The Nature Conservancy, the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City or the charity of your choice.

He loved his family and his work, and died with his boots on, as he had hoped. Family and friends are bereft. He is absolutely irreplaceable.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Feb. 7 to Feb. 9, 2020.
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Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Crosby-N. Gray & Co. - FD-96
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5 entries
February 18, 2020
I worked with Dr. B for 4 years as an autopsy tech and he was such a lovely man. So smart, always curious. He made you want to learn and be better too. I often enjoyed our conversations about his life and experiences, and always loved his classical music recommendations. I'm glad he was able to do something he loved his entire life. Anyone that met and worked with him could see that right away. So sorry I couldn't make it to the memorial service, but I will definitely be making a donation in his name. You will be missed by all who knew you Dr. B.
Michelle B
February 9, 2020
Dr Peter Benson was the finest professional witness whom I ever had the pleasure of working with. More importantly, Dr Benson was one of the nicest human beings I ever had the pleasure of knowing. He had a wonderful life and made such a positive impact on those who he met.
Our prayers are with him and his entire family.
Judge Stephen Hall
February 8, 2020
I worked with Dr. Benson for 30 yrs. and always felt his professionalism was of the utmost quality. Over the years I learned of his quick and at times dry sense of humor. Whenever we had a visiting pathologist doing an autopsy it was never the same. I always felt like a bystander, unengaged, unlike Dr."B" (as so many referred to him later in years) informed you every step of the way and explained how and why certain injuries were made and how they affected other organs leading to their death. I also lived in Burlingame and would see him walking around downtown. He would always remember me and ask how was retirement. I just felt special that such a kind intelligent well-versed accomplished person would take the time to engage in conversation with me. I will miss seeing him around town, I know he will be missed by many. My heart goes out to Judy and all of his family and friends.
Joanne Del Bene
February 6, 2020
Dr. Benson was a truly remarkable man. He was very knowledgeable about many different subjects. He was a renowned Pathologist who went to any length to find the answers. He was always willing to explain to families the issues that caused a loved one's death. Dr. Benson will be remembered as a kind and respected person.
To Judy and his family my deepest sympathy. He had a life well lived.
Tom Marriscolo
February 6, 2020
I want to offer my condolences to Dr. Benson's family. I have enjoyed working with him over the years. He will be sorely missed.
Mona Ten
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