North Central College and the wider community of Naperville are in mourning this week after the death of one of the school's most tireless supporters, Albert Benedetti.
Benedetti, president of Naperville home-building company Bruno Benedetti & Sons, died Thursday of undisclosed causes. He was 88.
"He was a special person," Dick Wehrli, Benedetti's longtime friend and occasional business partner, said on Sunday. "There won't be many like him again. Everyone here is really going to miss him."
Wehrli said he was 5 or 6 years old and serving as bat boy for an American Legion youth baseball team in Naperville when he first met Benedetti. Over the ensuing decades, the two would become close friends, fellow supporters of North Central College (from which they both graduated, Benedetti in 1948 and Wehrli in 1956) and partners in the local businesses Mustang Construction and DuKane Precast.
"He taught me so much about business," Wehrli said. "He knew how to treat people fairly and honestly, something you didn't always see in our industry. And he was so devoted to his family and his community."
One particular institution in Naperville occupied a special place in Benedetti's heart -- his alma mater, North Central College.
A standout athlete, Benedetti played on the college's championship football teams of 1946 and 1947, according to a tribute the school posted on its website, northcentralcollege.edu. Benedetti later joined Wehrli and other alumni in an effort to construct a football stadium for the school.
When flooding nearly destroyed that stadium, he and Wehrli stepped up again to get a new one built. The new building, originally called Cardinal Stadium, was renamed Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in 2003.
Benedetti also helped in the construction of North Central's baseball stadium.
"Few figures have had more impact on the North Central College physical campus in the past half century than (Benedetti)," North Central College President Harold R. Wilde said in a statement on the school's website.
Rick Spencer, the school's vice president for institutional advancement, said Benedetti remained active in the school's athletic program as both a fan and a source of inspiration.
"He was a fairly quiet man, but he had a huge presence," Spencer said Sunday. "He still attended our football and baseball games. Everyone who worked in the athletic program here was inspired by him."
Benedetti is survived by his wife, Alpha, four daughters and five grandchildren. A visitation will be held 2 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 13, at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, 44 S. Mill St., Naperville. A funeral Mass will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday, May 14, at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 36 N. Ellsworth St., Naperville.