Favorite Berkeley Eats:
Yogurt Park & Noah's Bagels
Favorite Study Spot at Cal:
(crappy apartment on University)
Favorite Watering Hole While at Cal:
Any place that would take “Heidi” (Heidi is Kerry’s
horrible fake I.D. that barely looked like her)
Favorite Cal Soccer Memory:
Any time the team huddled up and said “Go Bears”
Kerry Benefield (a.k.a. Bene or Sumo), grew up in Santa Rosa which is just an hour North of Berkeley. Bene began her journey at Cal in 1991 and graduated in 1995 with an English major. After Cal, she worked a short stint as a Features Editor for the St. Helena Star then she went on to study journalism at City University in London. After she earned her master’s in journalism, she moved to New Mexico in 1997. It was here that she met her husband, Charlie. The way Bene met Charlie is priceless. She had missed her connecting flight back to New Mexico where her employer had sent a driver to pick her up. Since her new flight came in later, the driver was switched, and the new driver happened to be Charlie. Is that destiny, I think so!!! They are still going strong 20 years later with two teenage boys in tow (August, 14 and James, 16) and their Blue Heeler Australian Cattle Dog, Grady.
Bene worked as an investigative reporter in New Mexico for a few years when Charlie was offered a job in Shreveport, Louisiana; so they moved. In 2003, she won the Gibbs Adam Award for Investigative Reporting for a series she wrote on public defenders and the lack of resources they had to defend their clients. The award is given each year in memory of legendary State-Times investigative reporter Gibbs Adams. Her impressive work beat out some of the big papers such as the Baton Rouge Advocate and Louisiana Tribune. After 4 years in Louisiana, she and Charlie moved back to Santa Rosa where she was hired immediately at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. At the Press Democrat, she covered everything from politics to transportation to schools. In 2014 she became the publications Sports Columnist, a job she absolutely loved. She even wrote an article about Tracy Hamm, when she was the Santa Rosa Junior College coach.
Fun Fact: Eight of the reporters on the Press Democrat team who won the Pulitzer were Cal Grads!
Bene had a controlled yet tenacious feistiness on the field, being a caring person and teammate, and definitely always a smile from Bene. Never really a shit talker but always had your back...and yes focused on becoming a journalist.
Stephanie (Hartman) Buser ‘94
Bene is such a fun person to be around. She would seem super serious one second and then make you laugh your head off the next. I remember her awesome corner kicks and her amazing smile!
Erika (Hinton) Cannon ‘94
She had a shrine of Simon LeBon in her bedroom. She was definitely ALWAYS GIFTED yet ALWAYS HUMBLE!
Tiffany (Hobbs) Gieck ‘95
In 2017, the Tubbs fire ravaged Santa Rosa County burning over 6000 homes. Bene was one of the team members of the Press Democrat who provided in-depth coverage throughout the night bringing essential information to the public. Their relentless reporting the night of, allowed thousands of people to flee the area safely. Their winning work also consisted of reporting days after the fire which again brought crucial information to the public, a feat that did not go unrecognized. In 2018, the Press Democrat won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting, the highest journalistic recognition possible. When we were on Zoom with Bene talking about the experience of winning a Pulitzer, you could hear the struggle in her voice. “The Pulitzer was a weird thing to celebrate; there was a deep pride but at the same time, there was a great sadness regarding the topic of why we won it.”
We cannot imagine how scary it must have been to live through such devastation while choosing to get up every morning to report about it, but that is Bene. She is a resilient, smart, beautiful wonder woman, who we absolutely love and respect. Bene is still reporting for the Press Democrat, living in Santa Rosa with her family and has found her peace throughout the pandemic in Yoga.
Written By: Lisa "Cote" Luengo & Kim Brady
Roaming San Francisco looking for Duran Duran band…Simon LeBon. Seriously I drove her around for 4 hours…she was obsessed. She would also write poems in seconds. One time I went to pick her up and she said she needed 1 more minute to finish her poem. It was so good.
Stacey (Juhl) Finnerty '94
She made me film her because she wanted to be on that show “The Real World” and sent in an audition tape.
Jen (Harvey) Kothe ‘95