Benjamin, Harold H. 1924-2004
BENJAMIN, Harold H. 1924-2004
See index for CA sketch: Born April 19, 1924, in Philadelphia, PA; died of complications from pulmonary fibrosis December 23, 2004, in Marina del Ray, CA. Attorney, activist, and author. Benjamin is best known as the founder of the Wellness Community, a national chain of nonprofit cancer patient support centers. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a radar operator during World War II, he earned his B.A. from Pennsylvania State University in 1947, and his J.D. from Cornell University in 1950. He had a private law practice in New York City for a number of years before moving to Beverly Hills, California, where he practiced real estate law. A couple of life changing experiences moved Benjamin's life in a new direction. One was his involvement with the Santa Monica drug rehabilitation program called Synanon. Here, Benjamin acted as an administrator, and the experience helped persuade him that community support was greatly beneficial to people suffering from addiction. In the early 1970s, his wife developed breast cancer, and her subsequent double mastectomy operation and rehabilitation intimately acquainted Benjamin with the needs of cancer sufferers. The other factors in Benjamin's transformation were his involvement with the Center for the Healing Arts, which practiced holistic healing therapies, and his friendship with Norman Cousins, a Saturday Review editor who survived a serious illness. All of these experiences led Benjamin to realize that cancer patients would greatly benefit from an organized, nonprofit support group. The goal was to break the cycle of isolation cancer sufferers often experience so that they could share and receive support from others like themselves, as well as from professionally trained therapists. Using his own money, he established the first center in Santa Monica, California, in 1982. And although the Wellness Community first met with skepticism from the public and patients alike, it soon began establishing branches around the country. When former Saturday Night Live comedienne Gilda Radner, who suffered and eventually died from ovarian cancer, gave her wholehearted support to the center's mission, the Wellness Community received a huge boost in public support. It now has centers around the United States, as well as a branch in Israel and one in Japan. Benjamin wrote about his efforts in 1994's The Wellness Community Guide to Fighting for Recovery from Cancer. He was also the author of From Victim to Victor (1988).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Chicago Tribune, December 26, 2004, section 4, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times, December 24, 2004, p. B11.
New York Times, December 25, 2004, p. C7.