Michelle Benedetti was a lot of things to a lot of people: a mom, a social worker, a fitness fanatic and someone who always put others before herself.
“She’s the most amazing person I ever met,” said her husband, 25-year Haverhill police Detective Joe Benedetti, recalling his wife who lost her battle against breast cancer in May of 2019.
Her death left a huge void for Benedetti and her sons from a previous marriage, Ryan Basile, 17, and Jonathan Basile, 19, and three adult step-children, among other family members and close friends.
“Michelle would be the one to corral us together,” said her close friend Andrea Fogarty, a 22-year Haverhill police sergeant.
After her death, Benedetti, Fogarty and other loved ones decided to channel their grief into something positive that would honor her memory, as well as her livelihood as an investigations supervisor for the Department of Children and Families. She worked out of the Haverhill Police Department, looking into allegations of child abuse and neglect.
Joe Benedetti, Fogarty and Michelle’s family established the MishStrong Foundation last fall. According to Fogarty, the group will award four scholarships to Haverhill High School students later this year, including to a student following in her footsteps to pursue social work.
They are also planning to hold a memorial 5K walk/run this spring.
A 5K is a most appropriate way to raise money for the foundation in Michelle’s name, Fogarty said. She recalled how Michelle would rouse friends out of bed at 4 a.m. to go for a run or a workout at Drive, a gym in Salem, New Hampshire.
The gym wasn’t the only place Michelle Benedetti shined, according to Fogarty and Benedetti, who first met his wife when he worked in the Police Department’s domestic violence unit.
“Everyone would say, ‘If you need something from DCF, you go to Michelle,’” he said.
Fogarty said she was the “best investigator I’ve ever worked with.”
“There’s nothing more difficult than working with families where you’re investigating their families or potentially taking their children or anything like that,” Fogarty added. “Michelle was patient, smart, fair and very good at decision making. She was amazing at communicating with families.”
For devoting her career to children across Massachusetts, Michelle was awarded the One With Courage award from the Essex Children’s Advocacy Center and the Essex County District Attorney’s Office in April 2019.
When Benedetti struggles with grief, he thinks of all the local children his late wife helped and will continue to help, this time through MishStrong.
“I just want to see children benefit (through her foundation), because that’s what she would want,” he said. “We’re trying to keep this away from cancer and more about helping kids because that’s what her life was about.”