• Gabriel Donio

Dorothy Berenato mourned

Kessler Hospital Bd. Chairman, ‘Nice Going’ Award winner was 88



HAMMONTON—Dorothy “Dottie” R. Berenato (née Ruberton), a family-focused woman who gave back to the community of Hammonton and surrounding towns through her works as the former Chairman of the Board of William B. Kessler Memorial Hospital in Hammonton and the former president of the Board of Trustees of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Winslow Twp. as well as many other organizations and was the recipient of the Greater Hammonton Chamber of Commerce “Nice Going” Award in 1996, died peacefully at her Hammonton home in the early hours of March 6 at the age of 88.


(For the complete obituary, click here)


Known to most as “Dottie,” Berenato was a devoted mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, a devout member of her church and an assiduous volunteer member of many organizations in her community.


Her obituary said of Berenato: “A forthright and moral woman, you never had to guess what Dottie thought of you: she was quite happy to tell you.”


Born June 18, 1933 to parents Michael L. and Gilda F. Ruberton (née Falciani), Berenato lived in Hammonton her entire life. She graduated St. Joseph High School, and then graduated Immaculata College in 1954, earning her baccalaureate in home economics, with a concentration in dietetics. After returning home, she worked for Atlantic Electric as a representative for home services. In later life, while telling stories about her life around the family dinner table, Berenato would often wonder aloud where a career might have led her in different times. Yet, life had another plan for Berenato, when she married her beloved husband Andy Berenato in 1956, and they began their family. She made it her life’s mission to ensure the happiness and prosperity of the people she loved, her obituary said.


Berenato devoted herself to many volunteer causes and organizations throughout her life—many in positions of leadership—and thereby accumulated several accolades. Some of the organizations that benefited from her altruistic efforts include Hammonton’s William B. Kessler Memorial Hospital Foundation as Secretary then Vice President (1982-1988); Kessler’s Auxiliary Board (1964 and onward); and Kessler’s Board of Directors as Secretary, Vice Chairman and then Chairman (1990-2005); the Southern New Jersey Health Systems Agency, as Treasurer, Vice President and later President; the Statewide Health Coordinating Council (1983-1988); Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, as trustee then Vice Chairman and Chairman (1984-1996); the Atlantic County Human Services and Advisory Council (1987-1989); the New Jersey Hospital Association (1993-2000); and too many others to list. Dottie also found time to actively involve herself both in her church and in her children’s schools, St. Joseph’s and St. Augustine College Prep.


Apart from her volunteer work, Berenato loved to read, attend live theater and classical performances, host and entertain, take vacations with her friends and family, involve herself in the lives of her children and grandchildren, and spend summers at her vacation home in Ocean City.


Berenato is predeceased by, and now joyfully reunited with her beloved husband of 54 years Andy Berenato, who died in 2010; her eldest son, Andrew G. Berenato Jr., who succumbed to cancer in 2011; her youngest son, George Berenato, who died in early childhood; and her granddaughter, Lauren Pitale, who died in 2016. (For a listing of surviving family, please see Berenato’s obituary.)


Family and friends are invited to her viewing on March 11 at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Parish-St. Joseph Church at 9:30 a.m., 226 French Street Hammonton. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11:30 a.m. Entombment will be in Greenmount Cemetery, 124 S. First Rd., Hammonton.


In remembrance of the vast volunteering and time she has donated throughout the years, in lieu of flowers donations may be made to St. John of God, 1145 Delsea Dr., Westville Grove, NJ 08093, St. Vincent de Paul Society, 226 French St., Hammonton, NJ 08037 or a charity of one’s choice.


Arrangements made by the Marinella Funeral Home. To share a condolence, please visit marinellafuneralhome.com.


Greater Hammonton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Runfolo fondly recalled Berenato, who was the recipient of the Chamber’s “Nice Going” Award in 1996.


“Dottie is Hammonton royalty. Many know what she did publicly; it was her “behind the scenes” contributions that we will remember and miss,” Runfolo said in an email to The Gazette on March 7.


Runfolo sent the biography of Berenato that appeared in the Chamber Guide in 1996, the year she received the Chamber’s “Nice Going” Award, one of the highest local honors a Hammontonian can receive. The photo that accompanied the biography was used with this article and Berenato’s obituary.


The Gazette spoke with family members of Berenato about her life and legacy.


“Family was the most important thing in her life. And her volunteerism was just as important to her,” Berenato’s daughter Liz Pitale said.


Pitale was asked why her mother focused so much of her charitable efforts on the healthcare field.


“Maybe because of my brother Georgie [who died at a young age], and because the hospital had a section named after her father [M.L. Ruberton],” Pitale said.


Within her family, Berenato was known for always remembering other family members’ special occasions, whether it was with a card, a gift or a telephone call.


“She kept meticulous lists of everybody’s birthdays, everybody’s everything. She was super, super organized with files on everyone,” Pitale said.


A Roman Catholic, Berenato was also deeply committed to her faith, her children recalled.


“Her faith was very, very important to her,” Pitale said.


Fostering excellence was another hallmark of Berenato’s personality, Pitale said.


She said her mother “always wanted to do her best.”


“And she wanted you to do your best, too,” Pitale said.


Her family members said Berenato’s legacy will be the standard she set for future generations—one of high achievement that helped make Hammonton and the surrounding communities better places.


“She genuinely cared about everybody and everything, and donated her time to projects. What she wanted to leave behind was that everybody should try to do their best and take pride in the place where they live,” Pitale said.


Berenato’s son Rick Berenato remembered the deep connection to family ties.


“It was just that era—that’s how they grew up. I remember as a kid, my grandparents lived down the street. They had a patio on the front lawn. They would be sitting out there in the summer and we would be there and neighbors would come by and everyone would sit and talk together. That’s what you did back then,” Berenato said.


He remembered his mother as a giving person.


“She always wanted to do something for you. Once we were grown, she didn’t work, so she donated her time,” Rick Berenato said.


While Berenato was not involved in the family business, M.L. Ruberton Construction, she was always connected to it through her father, her husband and her sons, Rick Berenato said.

“She always knew what was going on because that was all her husband and her sons were talking about, and before that it was her husband and her father,” he said.


A woman of firm convictions, Berenato was a formidable leader—both in her family and on the boards she ran.


“She was a strong woman, a matriarch. She definitely was strong. There was no changing her mind. She was usually right. Even if she wasn’t, she was right,” Berenato said.


Berenato said his mother was motivated by helping others.


“Everything she did, she was pretty low-profile. She wasn’t interested in the recognition. That’s why she did it. She enjoyed helping people and doing things for people. That’s what she liked. She felt she was fortunate and she wanted to give back,” Berenato said.