|Birth: ||Mar. 6, 1927|
|Death: ||Dec. 28, 2010|
Willie Bird matriarch dies at age 83
Obituary: Aloha Ann Benedetti
Published: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 3:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 3:33 p.m.
Aloha Ann Benedetti, a determined businesswoman who played a key part in starting a turkey and restaurant enterprise now anchored in local lore, died Tuesday at age 83.
The cause was likely related to complications from a fall suffered several months ago, family members said.
Benedetti was born in Petaluma on March 6, 1927 and died at the Stage Gulch Road ranch she had called home since 1947.
She was born on a dairy ranch to Sonoma County pioneers Elmo Corda and Blanche Wright, whose love of the ukulele led them to choose a Hawaiian salutation as her name. Benedetti was raised in Chileno Valley, across from a one-room schoolhouse that she and children from neighboring ranches attended through eighth grade.
She moved on to high school in Petaluma, but left early when World War II began, out of patriotism but also a love of working that would be a lifelong hallmark of her character.
Not yet of age, she took her older sister's identification and showed up at the Richmond shipyard where women were being hired for the war effort.
"She had just heard they needed workers so she got in the line there and got a job as a welder," said a son, Riley Benedetti of Sonoma. "She wanted to work. She loved working."
Another son, Edward Benedetti, of Petaluma, added: "She never wanted to stop."
The war over, Aloha Benedetti continued to stake her own place in the workforce, although at times, given the era, she found resistance.
"After the war ended," Riley Benedetti said, "there was a change, the housewife thing. She'd tell me later on that she wanted to work and the culture wasn't for that at that time."
Still, she persisted.
She worked at the Lace House Laundry in Petaluma, operating shirt presses. Then she took a job as a clerk at Asherman's, a grocery on Petaluma's Kentucky Street where she met Walter Benedetti, to whom she would be wed in a marriage that lasted 63 years.
In a story she was fond of telling, she would say later that she "captured him," Edward Benedetti said.
The couple married in 1947 and moved to the Stage Gulch Road ranch, where they raised turkey hatching eggs.
Working with her son, Willie, who was pursuing a Future Farmers of America project, she started a business at the ranch, raising turkeys to sell for Thanksgiving. They started with 400-odd eggs that hatched in the summer of 1963.
Advertisements were placed in the newspapers and the family never looked back. In 1975, they opened a shop on Highway 12 near Sebastopol and in 1980, on St. Patrick's Day, Willie Bird's Restaurant on Santa Rosa Avenue in Santa Rosa.
There she would work on the food line, finishing plates before they went out to a growing crowd of loyal customers.
"She was the real reason Willie Bird's started, she was instrumental in the whole thing," said Riley Benedetti.
Along the way, Aloha Benedetti became interested in the business of beauty, earned her beautician's license and took a job at King's, a Petaluma salon, where she would also sell turkeys to customers. In 1967, she opened the Aloha Linda salon in Boyes Hot Springs. Later she would open another in Napa.
"She was way ahead of her time in business," said Connie Hallen, a longtime friend.
"I think she was just really a very focused person, and when she got an idea or an ambition she focused on it and pursued and didn't let anyone tell her she couldn't," Hallen said.
At the restaurant, as at home, Benedetti displayed the type of generous spirit that her name promised.
"When we had visitors, they'd come into our house and kitchen, and she'd always say, ‘You come in, we take care of you," Riley Benedetti said.
"The second time, she'd say, ‘You've been here before, you help yourself. The first time your company, the second time, you're part of us now,'" he said.
Benedetti is also survived by her husband, Walter Benedetti; her son Willie of Valley Ford; two grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Sisters Ramonda Corda, Sally Sampietro and Jeanne Cordellos predeceased her.
A funeral liturgy is set for Thursday, 10:30 a.m., at Parent-Sorenson Mortuary and Crematory, 850 Keokuk St, Petaluma. Memorial contributions are suggested to ChildFund International or any children's charity.
Walter E Benedetti (1918 - 2012)*
Calvary Catholic Cemetery
Created by: Geraldine "Gerry" Hume...
Record added: Jan 01, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 63605637