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Daniel deBenedictis, 97, a lawyer of myriad talents

tom landers/globe staff/file 2005

Daniel deBenedictis worked in his 90s for the Norfolk district attorney as director of the consumer protection division.

Daniel J. deBenedictis tried to retire from practicing law, but quickly decided to keep working. Just before his 90th birthday, he said retirement was not for him.

“It is dull, dull, dull,’’ he told the Globe in 2005. “You’re not helping anyone; you’re not under pressure. There are no challenges, no deadlines.’’

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By then he was working in the Norfolk district attorney’s office as director of the consumer protection division. William D. Delahunt, a former US representative, said that when he was Norfolk district attorney he hired Mr. deBenedictis because of “his ability to empathize with people; he was an extraordinary man.’’

Delahunt added that “a reservoir of compassion’’ set him apart “from anyone else who applied for the position.’’

“It was one of the best decisions I made,’’ Delahunt said. “Dan was my friend and a great source of wisdom and joy.’’

Mr. deBenedictis, a real estate lawyer who wrote several books about the subject, including “The Complete Real Estate Advisor,’’ died of heart failure April 2 in the Palm Beach, Fla., home of his daughter. He was 97 and a longtime Milton resident.

Francis X. Bellotti, a former Massachusetts attorney general, said people were drawn to Mr. deBenedictis “even in his advanced age.’’

“Dan always remained active and affected people’s lives,’’ he said. “A very unusual man — not many people have the tremendous positive impact on other people’s lives that he had. He was respected and loved by all.’’

In 1984, doctors diagnosed Mr. deBenedictis with prostate cancer and told him he had a year to live. With treatment, “the prayers of family and friends, and his always positive attitude, he beat the odds,’’ said his daughter, Danielle, a former Massachusetts assistant attorney general and congressional candidate who practices law in Boston.

His son — Louis of Milton, who also is a lawyer — said that Mr. deBenedictis was “practicing and advising on matters of real estate and law to the age of 92 and spent the last five years enjoying his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.’’

In 2005, Mr. deBenedictis told the Globe: “The most important thing is your wife, your children, and your grandchildren. They’re all so good to me. That’s the best part of the whole thing.’’

His wife, Anita deBenedictis, a former real estate broker, died last year at age 92.

“My mother and father had a tremendous love affair that endured the 65 years of their marriage,’’ said Danielle. “They were holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes right to the very end.’’

“Ours was a true romantic marriage,’’ Mr. deBenedictis said in 2005. “Everybody should have the joy and good luck of meeting somebody they really adore and want to be with all the time.’’

Mr. deBenedictis was just as devoted to his children, Louis said. He recalled that when he was a boy, his father worked two jobs, but even if exhausted “he would take me to a sandlot with one baseball and would pitch it to me. When I hit it, he would have to run after it and retrieve it.’’

Several years later, Louis said, he and his father began playing tennis together and competed for 30 years in men’s doubles matches “all over the South Shore and won many of them together.’’

Born in Philadelphia, Daniel Joseph deBenedictis was the youngest of 12 children. His father died before he was born, and childhood often was not easy.

“Dad grew up in the tough streets of Philadelphia,’’ Louis said. “One day he would be beaten up because he was Catholic and another day because he was Italian.

As a boy, Mr. deBenedictis developed a parking business on the streets of Philadelphia, his children said. When his mother moved to California for health reasons, Mr. deBenedictis sold that business and went with her to San Francisco, where he helped financially by working in a Chinatown newspaper sales business.

Mr. deBenedictis was 11 when his mother died. He returned to Philadelphia to live with his siblings.

He was valedictorian of his class at Germantown High School in Philadelphia and turned down scholarships to Ivy League colleges “to continue to support his brothers and sisters,’’ Danielle said.

Louis said his father secured an engineering scholarship at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he was also a lightweight boxer.

He graduated from Temple in 1940 and enlisted in the US Marine Corps. Because of his engineering background, his family said, he was sent to Guadalcanal, where he helped supervise construction of landing strips on jungle islands in the Pacific for fighter planes during World War II.

He served two tours of duty and, while home on leave, married Anita Jeanne Paragallo in 1945. They had met through relatives, and after marrying they went to the Marine station in Cherry Point, N.C. When he retired from active duty as a major, they settled in Milton.

Mr. deBenedictis graduated from Boston University with a master’s degree in education. To pay for his education and support his family, he was a lecturer at area colleges and worked for an office equipment firm while attending Northeastern University School of Law. He graduated in 1961 and opened a law and real estate practice a few years later.

“I feel like I’m in the middle of things,’’ he said in a Globe interview decades later, when he was 90, adding that he planned to keep working “until I’m 100.’’

A service has been held for Mr. deBenedictis, who, in addition to his son and daughter, leaves five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mr. deBenedictis was awarded a Bronze Star for valor during his time as a Marine on Guadalcanal.

“You’re talking to one of the luckiest men in the world,’’ he told the Globe in 2005. “I’ve been through hell and high water. I worked hard, and somebody’s been looking out for me.’’

Gloria Negri can be reached at negri@globe.com.
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