Signs of the Times - August 2016 - (Page 44)
Sig n M u s e u m N ews
is the Executive Director
of the American Sign
Museum in Cincinnati.
B y To d S w o r m s t e d t
Remember the Sign Man of Verona
Matthew Beneduce-McGrath (1957-2016)
n June 24, Matthew Beneduce-McGrath was
working late (as was his habit) at his shop, Benegrathic
Sign Design, in Verona, NJ. He told Bill O'Donnell,
who shared his shop, that he'd be back. Several minutes
later, he was killed as he walked across the street,
the victim of a hit-and-run. He was 59.
Matthew was well known in and around Verona and
Essex County. He was one of the town's "characters,"
an outgoing, engaging kind of guy. He was the sign
man - the one who did all the exquisitely carved and
gilded signs for numerous businesses, governments,
schools and churches.
Matthew was also a great supporter of the American
Sign Museum, and a personal friend of mine. It was a
real honor to have Matthew and his wife of 32 years,
Gloria, at the museum's grand opening four years ago.
His mark can be felt throughout, particularly in those
areas devoted to signpainting materials and tools. He'd
donated pints and quarts of lettering enamels; vintage
tools and brushes; manufacturer's brochures and catalogs;
vintage signpainting books, and even a neon clock.
These were either passed down by older signpainters
or purchased in an antique store or flea market.
In May of this year, I picked up a sign that Jeff Friedman, owner of NYC's Let There Be Neon, graciously
stored for me. I mentioned it to Matthew. He said he
had "a few more things for the museum." So I drove
to New Jersey - just across the river from Tribeca -
44 SIGNS OF THE TIMES August 2016
and picked him up. He presented me with a handpainted and gilded tin sign that read, "Alfred Breunig
- Truck Lettering." He'd purchased it from another
area signpainter who had found it face-down in a barn,
cleaned it up and added the stabilizing frame. I'll
never know his name now; Matthew was going to
write a description about him.
I spent many hours with Matthew in my dozen or
so visits to his shop; he rarely talked about himself.
He was more likely to acknowledge the gifts of all the
area signpainters who had been his mentors. Or, he'd
pull stuff out of corners of his shop and say, "Oh, and
this belongs in the Museum, too."
I learned about Matthew's deep signpainting roots.
His father had dabbled, but Mathew's grandfather had
been a real signpainter, as was his great-grandfather,
back in Matthew's hometown of Logansport, IN.
I learned of Matthew's love of music. He had taken
blues-harp lessons, and was known to play a mean
washboard as well. A friend played a song at the
memorial service, noting that it was one he and
Matthew had been working on. They met nearly
every Wednesday night to write songs together.
But Matthew was most known for his sign work.
Not only in Essex County, but in Logansport, whose
local paper remembered Matthew's passing with a
feature story on the sign he had carved and gilded for
the town's Dentzel Carousel 20 years ago.
You can rest now, Matthew. Your signs will endure
as lasting memories of your contributions to your hometown and adopted city. You've made a lasting, positive
mark. And, if St. Peter needs a new carved and gilded
entrance sign, I know just the man to do it. n
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - August 2016
Signs of the Times - August 2016
Why You Should Invest in a Color-Management Device
Technology Review - Epson SureColor S80600
Technology Review - The AXYZ Trident
Sign Museum News
Writing on the Wall
Dostoevsky and the Crane Truck
Penn State Study Assesses Font Legibility
A Crossroads Celebration
Signs of the Times - August 2016