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Road Named for Crucian Philanthropist

Dec. 10, 2004 – A section of Route 79 on St. Croix has been dedicated in memory of Crucian philanthropist, songwriter and music producer Claude A. "Bennie" Benjamin. A road sign bearing his name was unveiled in a brief ceremony on Friday morning at the intersection of Centerline and Rattan road near Sunny Isles.
Members of the Benjamin foundation board were on hand to witness the dedication of the Claude A. "Bennie" Benjamin Memorial Drive. Dr. Walter Pedersen, president of the St. Croix foundation, called the acknowledgment a small tribute to a Crucian who had the vision of providing high-quality medical care to the Virgin Islands community.
"Bennie is up in heaven smiling and singing," attorney David Beale, foundation executor, said.
Senator Usie R. Richards sponsored the legislation to rename the road. He called Benjamin's contributions to the Virgin Islands "noteworthy."
"Bennie Benjamin was a philanthropist and continues to be one who contributes to the people of the Virgin Islands through his contributions to the Department of Health, the University of the Virgin Islands and both hospitals," Richards said.
The St. Croix senator said that it was fitting to establish a "lasting memorial" to Benjamin, and noted that even though Benjamin lived most of his life away from the Virgin Islands he always kept the people of the V.I. in his heart.
Also attending Friday’s unveiling were Tina Beale, foundation program coordinator; Tita Encarnacion, nursing assistant vice president and foundation territorial program coordinator; Magda Finch, foundation vice president; and foundation members Helen Davidson and Professor Francisco Depusior.
Claude A. "Bennie" Benjamin, a St. Croix native born in 1907, left the territory for New York, where he studied music. With Sol Marcus and Eddie Seiler he wrote the lyrics and music for "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire," made famous by the Ink Spots.
After returning home, Benjamin collaborated with George David Weiss to write 20 hit songs, including "When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World)" and "The Wheel of Fortune." He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and died in 1989. He set up the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation to help the territory's medical facilities.
Among the Benjamin's memorial foundations' many contributions to the territory are four annual grants and scholarships awarding approximately $350,000 to persons pursuing careers in medicine, nursing, public health and the allied health professions; over $850,000 in grants for medical equipment purchases; a $64,000 blood mobile unit; $56,000 for the renovation of the Charles Harwood Hospital pharmacy; furnishing the student health center on UVI’s St. Thomas campus and the nursing school labs on the St. Croix campus; replacing nursing school reference materials on microfiche at a cost of over $150,000 and providing funding of the Interfaith Coalition of the Virgin Islands Mental Heath Alliance.
In Jan. 2003 the foundation project unveiled an upgraded medical library at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital. (See the St. Thomas Source story "Hospital Library Features Teleconferencing").

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