Published : Saturday, November 4, 2017 | 5:13 AM
The Rev. Jonathan W. Benton, who with his wife, Elsie, in 1967 founded the Walter Hoving Home which later opened a location at 127 South El Molino Avenue, died on Wednesday, November 1, at his home in Pasadena. He was 84.
The Walter Hoving Home helps women in crisis through their darkest moments.
Benton was born in Seattle on August 29, 1933. He and Elsie, who survives him, were married for 65 years. They had known each other since kindergarten.
As Assemblies of God ministers, the Bentons visited with women on the streets of New York City and Los Angeles for nearly 50 years, offering them a way to escape drug and alcohol addiction and prostitution.
In 1967, the couple founded the Christian Recovery Center in Garrison. At the time they opened, the Bentons had 12 residents and four staff members at the Center. The resident called the couple Dad B and Mom B.
Before moving to Garrison, the Bentons served as pastors at a church in Washington state, and directors for Youth for Christ and missionaries in Japan.
In 1965 they were asked by David Wilkerson, the founder of Times Square Church, to join his Teen Challenge ministry in Brooklyn. The Bentons moved with their three children to Farmingdale, New York, and John Benton began traveling with Wilkerson as the organization’s associate director.
In September 1965, Wilkerson asked Benton to become director of the Women’s Home in New York City. The Bentons began to walk the streets of the city, looking for young women in need of assistance.
At the same time, the Bentons began to search for a place outside the city to establish their own recovery home. In March 1967, they met Walter Hoving, the former longtime chairman of Tiffany and Company, and his wife, Pauline, at a dinner party. Hoving helped secure funding for the couple to buy, for $175,000, a 22.5-acre property and home on Snake Hill Road in Garrison.
In 1984, the Bentons expanded the ministry to California, opening a home in Pasadena in the former Mira Monte Hotel, and in 2006 they added a third home in Las Vegas. A fourth home in Oxford, New Jersey, opened in April.
Women are allowed to stay at the facilities for up to a year; more than 23,000 have lived at one of the homes over the past five decades.
“John Benton made a huge impact on me when I came for help in 1992,” recalls Beth Greco, a Garrison resident who is now the CEO and president of Walter Hoving Home. “He was a godly, humble man of wisdom and integrity, but most of all he truly cared for people.”
Besides his wife, Benton is survived by his children, Marjii Smith (David), Connie Adams and Jim Benton (Judy). He is also survived by nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service officiated by Jim Benton will take place on November 7 at the Lake Avenue Church Chapel in Pasadena. Memorial contributions may be made to the John Benton Memorial Fund at the Walter Hoving Home, P.O. Box 194, Garrison, NY 10524.