By By Frederick N. Rasmussen and The Baltimore Sun
Oct 14, 2011 at 5:44 PM
Arthur Beneckson, a retired Baltimore County public schools psychologist and guidance counselor who was also a popular summer camp counselor for 30 years, died Oct. 4 of coronary artery disease at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital.
The longtime Lutherville resident was 85.
The son of a pharmacist and a homemaker, Mr. Beneckson was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he attended public schools, graduating in 1940 from Erasmus Hall High School.
He enlisted in the Navy in 1940 and served as a radioman in South America, said his wife of 28 years, the former Patricia A. Young.
After his discharge in 1946, he enrolled at Mohawk College at the Army's old Rhoads Hospital in Utica, N.Y., then one of the Associated Colleges of Upper New York. They were established to deal with the surge of returning World War II veterans attending school on the GI Bill of Rights. After graduating in 1948, he enrolled at Syracuse University.
Before starting college at Syracuse, Mr. Beneckson applied for a summer job as a counselor at Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine, and worked there for the next 30 summers.
It was there in 1949 that he met and became lifelong friends with a 6-year-old camper from Baltimore named Richard "Richie" Sher. Mr. Sher went on to be a WJZ-TV reporter and executive producer and moderator of the TV show "Square Off."
"Artie … was head of the Warriors group — a born leader," Mr. Sher recalled. "He was a mentor to hundreds of young Warriors, the singalong leader — from George M. Cohan's 'I Guess I'll Have to Telegraph My Baby' to 'Forty-five Minutes from Broadway' to 'Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women' — and always the Indian chief at the wonderful, meaningful campfires."
He recalled Mr. Beneckson as being "lots of fun with a great big spirit. Kids loved him."
Cookie Schwartz Tager, who is an interpreter at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, met Mr. Beneckson in 1951, when he came to escort her and another young girl by camp train to Camp Highland Nature, Camp Takajo's sister camp.
"The train ride, under the watchful eye of Artie …" Ms. Tager wrote in an email. "How Artie watched intently over his two distaff charges until we were safely turned over to Highland Nature and my seamless introduction to sleepover camp, which was made all the more so by his special care and concern."
"The Art Beneckson I knew was a fugitive from the vaudeville circuits; the Broadway song-and-dance man who knew all the tunes and all the words," wrote another camper from those days, John Schupf, a Manhattan photographer and pianist, in an email. "It took a Southern rascal to teach me this stuff, and teach it he did, with inimitable style and flair."
After graduating from Syracuse in 1951 with a bachelor's degree in psychology, Mr. Beneckson enrolled at Vanderbilt University, where he earned a master's in psychology in 1953.
He began his career with Baltimore County public schools that year, and during the next 30 years was a counselor at elementary, middle and high schools. At the time of his 1983 retirement, he was the guidance counselor and cheerleading coach at Loch Raven High School.
"I worked with him for a period of time, and he made many outstanding contributions," said Anthony G. Marchione, former superintendent of Baltimore County public schools. "I really enjoyed working with him."
A longtime bachelor, Mr. Beneckson fell in love and married Patricia A. Young, who had four children, in 1983. He had coached one of her daughters when she was on the Loch Raven cheerleading squad.
"Years later, four then-adult stepchildren asked him to adopt them, which he did," his wife said.
In his retirement, Mr. Beneckson studied calligraphy at the Maryland Institute College of Art and became a member of the Washington Calligraphers Guild. He learned to play the bagpipes, dabbled in Native American folklore and crafts, and became a Mason and a Shriner.
"Whatever it was, Art threw himself into it wholeheartedly," his wife said. "He jumped in with both feet."
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For several years after leaving the county schools, he worked winters for Psychology Consultants Associated, testing and assessing clients, including police officer candidates and youths at the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County.
He later managed the Mount Washington Swim Club during summers. During the 1990s, he briefly managed Camp Puh Tok for Boys and Girls, a Salvation Army camp in Monkton.
He and his wife enjoyed traveling. And for years, he held season tickets to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Center Stage.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 22 at Mays Chapel United Methodist Church, 11911 Jenifer Road in Timonium.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Steven B. Attias of Pawleys Island, S.C.; three daughters, Julie A. Wells of Virginia Beach, Va., Elizabeth Y. Attias of Randolph, N.J., and Lynne M. Allegra of Bedminster, N.J.; a sister, Geraldine Saull of Sun City, Ariz.; and eight grandchildren.