Christian Arakel Benjamin, 82, died quietly in his sleep Saturday, April 6, 2019, from congestive heart failure after a valiant five year fight battling several serious diseases. His beloved wife of 27 years, Sally Jo Benjamin, was at his bedside during his final moments. Born on December 7, 1936, in Los Angeles he was the son of Arakel (Art) and Louise Benjamin, immigrants and escapees from the Turkish genocide in Armenia.
Educated in Lost Angeles public schools, he was a 1961 UCLA graduate with an engineering degree majoring in operations research and business administration. While still in college, he designed and built one of the first dynamometers for transmission testing. He was a member of the rugby team, Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and the Kelps.
After college he joined the Navy Reserves as an avionics technician, maintaining the electronic devices used in aircraft. His Navy experience provided him with a broad perspective on the electronic control systems in modern cars and trucks.
Over the next few years he worked for Mattel during the creation of the Barbie Doll, then as a researcher in radiation chemistry at Raychem and subsequently with the Southern California conglomerate Cordura, first in acquisitions and then as chief executive officer of one of the firm’s subsidiaries.
In the mid-1970’s Chris began assisting his father at Aceomatic Transmissions, his dad’s shop off mid-Wilshire in Los Angeles. The shop did about 100 transmissions a month and also had a small transmission parts business, selling parts for Lemco and Tramco. In 1977 he bought the business from his aging parents, launching an expansion plan that became an international legend in the transmission parts distribution industry.
At the time Chris sold Aceomatic in 1998 the headquarters was in Simi Valley. There were three satellite warehouses – Sacramento and Fresno in California and Washington State. In addition there were with three independent partnerships in Denver, Phoenix and Christchurch, New Zealand. He created a parts company that provided one of the first parts catalogs in the industry. After retiring in 1999 he designed a new planetary gear set used in U.S. Post Office Jeeps. Then for five years he and his wife Sally Jo distributed transmissions parts he had tooled in Taiwan, selling to other aftermarket business owners.
Not slowing he went back to continue a passion of racing cars as an amateur race-car driver. In his twenties he raced on the Bonneville Salt Flats so with this and countless speeding tickets over the years he was prepared for this new adventure.
A superb sportsman with an unquenchable love of the outdoors, he and his Sally Jo skied, and toured the globe with their bicycles, seeking the highest most rugged terrain to explore, all of which ended only a few years ago after the onslaught of his illnesses.
Chris and Sally Jo lived in a home which they built overlooking the Pacific Ocean designed by Jerry Lomax and Zoltan Pali. The home was the frequent host of the weekly Monday night poker game that Chris and his friends initiated in 1971 among other festive events.
In addition to his wife, close friends and business associated in several foreign countries, Chris is survived by a younger brother, three children from a former marriage, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.
Religious services and interment will take place at Conejo Mountain Funeral Home and Mortuary in Camarillo, CA on April 15, 2019. The visitation is at 10:30am with services at 11am.
In Lieu of flowers, Sally Jo Benjamin requests that Chris’ friends contribute to any of the following charities in Chris Benjamin’s name:
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease, American Brain Tumor Association, The American Diabetes Association, Bethany Church on the Hill in Thousand Oaks, CA.
All Saints Episcopal Church (name in check memo)
144 South C Street, Oxnard CA 93030