Those of us who dine frequently at Vic's All-Star Kitchen are also good friends of Patti Benson, who's been Vic's restaurant manager for the last 11 years and was just as well known for 10 years before that at New Rochelle on St. Mary.
Patti is saying goodbye to all of us today (Sunday, July 26) at Vic's. She and her husband Dusty Robson, both of them 30-year residents in Vintage Hills, are moving to a retirement community in Green Valley, Ariz., where they built a home three years ago. Green Valley is 21 miles up in the mountains from Tucson, has 11 swimming pools and eight golf courses, and, with a population of 12,000, is about as far away from the lifestyle and regular work days as you can get from Pleasanton.
In her younger years, Patti, who is now 61, was Wendy Ward, modeling Montgomery Ward's apparel on San Francisco television stations and in some of the print media. When Mobile Oil bought Ward's and started moving it in a less friendly retail direction, Patti left the agency job she'd had for 10 years and started waiting on tables. She loved the work, "finding my niche," as she says, and has been doing it ever since.
Among her favorites are the "maturing" men, as she calls them, who stop at Vic's every weekday at 7 a.m. for coffee and breakfast. Nicknamed the "World Problem Solvers," they have kept Patti well informed on Pleasanton politics and gossip, information that she occasionally passes along.
Her parents died of cancer 30 years ago and her only brother of the same disease in the early 1990s at age 47. Caring for him in those final days, she learned about patients who needed help and set out to volunteer, first at hospitals but in recent years throughout the community. She started volunteering with the national Angel Network four years ago, sending letters, cards and gift boxes to those in the military in Iraq and, more recently, Afghanistan. Last year for Christmas, she ran her own gift drive and mailed 250 pounds of Christmas presents to those on the front line in Iraq and another 250 pounds to a military hospital in Afghanistan that treats wounded Americans.
Working four days a week at Vic's, including Saturdays and Sundays, she has used her "off" days to visit with veterans regularly at the Veterans Hospitals and medical centers in Livermore and Palo Alto, carrying blankets and other materials to those coming out of surgery and sitting with those recovering from severe wounds to read the news, stories and just talk. Here in Pleasanton, she hosts mentally handicapped children at her home on Touriga Drive. When Scruffy, her white-furred Maltese died, she couldn't bear to tell the children who always looked forward to playing with him that she rushed out and bought an identical Maltese, which is now 2-1/2 and is called Scruffy II.
Patti was walking Scruffy near her Arizona home last Dec. 7 when a car struck her from behind and kept on going. Suffering a major head injury and broken arm, Patti moved from waiting on tables at Vic's to a strictly managerial job, which she'll be leaving this Sunday. She'll be missed.
An added note that makes Dusty and Patti's move to Green Valley more palatable: They listed their home on Touriga Drive for $715,000 on a Thursday in June, about $10,000 under the prevailing listings. They had three offers that day and signed a sale contract the next day. Now that's a nice way to say goodbye.