The daughter of a Brazilian coffee broker, Beatriz Bensinger managed a New York art gallery and operated a public relations firm in Mexico that she and her husband sold to Edelman, a marketing giant.
And they helped each other raise a blended family of seven children.
At different times, the Bensingers lived in Sao Paolo, London, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and Rancho Mirage. They also maintained a home on Lake Shore Drive. She mixed and matched decor to make each place fresh yet cozy. She wasn’t afraid to pair a piece of 17th century Portuguese furniture with a brutalist granite table. When she planned a party, she studied the lighting as carefully as the menu, to flatter attendees and create a mood.
Mrs. Bensinger, 75, died of ovarian cancer April 5 in Palm Desert, California, according to Roger Bensinger, her husband of 48 years.
She was born in Sao Paolo, where her father Atillio Benetti “was one of Brazil’s most respected coffee tasters and brokers,” her husband said.
After obtaining a philosophy degree from Brazil’s University of Campinas, she married her first husband, Roger Bruce, and moved to New York, where she managed a Madison Avenue art gallery. They had two children, Tony and Alexandra Bruce. After the marriage ended, she returned to Brazil for a visit.
Roger Bensinger was then an executive with the firm founded by his great-great-grandfather, Brunswick Corp., which started as a maker of billiards and bowling equipment. He was on a South American vacation in 1968 when a Brazilian classmate from Pomfret, his Connecticut prep school, introduced him to his future wife. “I was taken by her elegance and beauty,” he said. “I was 34, and she was 26.”
“We fell madly in love,” he said.
She lived in New York, and he lived in Chicago. A long-distance relationship began. “It was telephone or airplane or train,” he said.
They married in 1969 at his co-op on Lake Shore Drive. Judge Julius Hoffman, a Bensinger relative who presided over the raucous Chicago Seven trial, conducted the ceremony.
He had five children from his previous marriage. When they first married, they often had all seven of their kids, ranging in age from 15 to 3, in their five-bedroom apartment. “When we would go anyplace, I would reserve a table for nine,” he said.
Work took them around the world. While he was president and CEO of G.D. Searle, they lived in Brazil. When Monsanto acquired Searle, they moved to London, where he helped run European operations for Monsanto.
The Bensingers moved to Mexico City after they bought a Mexican public relations firm, Comunicaciones Interamericanas. Its clients included IBM, Kodak, Microsoft and Xerox. She served as vice president of administration.
Mrs. Bensinger’s warmth and facility with languages – she spoke Spanish, English, Italian and Portuguese – were assets. “She was very elegant and very skillful with interpersonal relationships, but she was an excellent businesswoman and almost mystically magical motivator of people,” her husband said. After selling the firm to Edelman in the mid-1990s, they retired to Rancho Mirage.
In addition to her husband and two children, she is survived by her stepchildren Roger Jr., Terri, Christopher, Stephanie and Katharine Bensinger; a brother, Silvio Benetti; and 15 grandchildren.
A celebration of her life is planned April 29 at the Arts Club at 201 E. Ontario, “her favorite place in Chicago,” her husband said. The gathering will feature two songs she adored, “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “I Wish You Love.”