When he went to work in 1989 as an associate in the powerhouse Philadelphia law firm of Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, he could have said he had arrived. Instead, Sean Perretta went back.
He went back to his old neighborhood, the 800 block of N. 45th Street, and bought a house. Perretta knew neighborhood kids, and some members of his own family, needed a black role model. And he knew he couldn't be a role model for a West Philly kid if he was ensconced in a bachelor pad in Chestnut Hill or Cherry Hill.
"He stayed in the community to set the example for the other kids," said Paul Minard, manager of the Rite Aide at 10th and Chestnut streets and a close friend of Perretta's since the sixth grade.
"Kids need good role models in this community, not just drug dealers and basketball players. Sean was always a doer, an achiever. He knew how to deal with reality and achieved the maximum."
"He was Randall Cunningham before Randall Cunningham," said Minard. "He was the leader and quarterback on the football team at Episcopal (Academy) when I was a running back, and he was number one when he graduated from Morgan State University."
Lillian Greene, a cousin, said, "He accomplished a lot and never forgot his roots."
Roosevelt Hairston, a friend and former law firm associate, said: "He was a person of extreme competence and professional capabilities. Personally, he was one of the most delightful and fun-loving people I've ever encountered in my life. In addition to all that, he was extremely concerned with his community."
Perretta was a Fulbright Fellow who constantly left the fast track of success to help the poor kid in a broken-down jalopy on the shoulder, maybe a group of kids at the Mill Creek Recreation Center or the Youth Study Center.
When he and close buddy Todd Rose gave a Reggae party last year, the suggested admission price was a toy. These went to the Toys for Tots program.
Rose and Perretta went to Morgan State in Baltimore together. Rose is 6- foot-4. Friends called them "The Twin Towers."
"He was probably one of the more brilliant people I've ever known," said Rose, a marketing executive for the Xerox Corp. "Everything came easy to Sean. He was full of charisma, full of life.
"One of the reasons it's so difficult to handle his passing is because he was always at the pulse of everything, whether it was education, parties or doing good things for people.
"He bought a house down the street from his mother. He and I always talked about staying in the neighborhood. He believed in his people. He believed in giving back. He worked with the brothers in the 'hood who had fallen on hard times."
Perretta spread counsel and cash in the 'hood, and he gave his energies and talents to various organizations. He was a board member of the Maternity Care Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and president of the board of the Minority Arts Resource Council.
He also did a lot of pro bono work through the Philadelphia Bar Association and worked with the Explorer scouts.
Perretta, who last year left the Philadelphia law firm to start his own practice, was a 1979 graduate of Episcopal Academy and graduated as valedictorian from Morgan State in 1983.
He then attended Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, in West Africa, on a Fulbright Fellowship. He graduated from Villanova University School of Law in 1989.
In his dissertation for the Fulbright Fellowship, he said his mother had ''pushed education almost to the brink of child abuse."
Theresa Perretta said her son had won a lot of awards for his creative writing, including poetry. She said he could converse with a scholar or get down on the floor and roll around with the nieces and nephews who adored him.
She said that when a neighborhood girl recently started off to college, she left with clothes Sean had bought her. He gave his money as freely as his advice.
Perretta's mother said the family has plots in Rolling Green Memorial Park in West Chester, but after Sean died they decided to bury him in West Laurel Hill in Bala Cynwyd so he could stay in the neighborhood.
"His job on earth was done," she said. "Obviously he had completed his assignment and then got called home. That's all. When you get finished what you gotta do, you go home. Right?"
Theresa Perretta said one of the characteristics that made Sean successful was his ability to focus totally on an objective.
But in his off hours, Perretta could be first among party animals. An elegant dresser, he could stride into a room and cause whiplash among half the women present.
Close friend Cherry Banez, who works in the newsroom at WTXF-TV (Channel 29), said of Perretta: "He had the funniest sense of humor. He loved life. He was well-respected. I have to say he's the only person I know that you can't think to say one negative thing about him."
There is one negative that can be said of him now, friends and relatives agree: He isn't here any more.
Survivors also include his father, James Perretta; a brother, Dino, and four sisters, Natalie, Gilda, Donna and Betsy.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at White Rock Baptist Church, 53rd and Chestnut streets, where friends may call two hours earlier. Burial will be in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Belmont Avenue above City Avenue, Bala Cynwyd.
ROSA M. BENSON
Rosa M. Benson, everyone's favorite neighbor, died Saturday. She was 83 and lived in North Philadelphia.
Benson had been president of the Gratz and Fontain streets block organization. She had lived in the neighborhood since 1941, and operated a beauty shop from her home from 1943 until 1981.
"She was sort of the neighborhood dowager," said George C. Benson, her son. "She knew everything that went on around here. Everybody knew her and everybody liked her. When anyone needed anything, they came to her."
The former Rosa Jones, she was originally from Edgecomb, N.C. She had been a member of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church since the 1930s. Her husband was Herley Benson, who died in 1982.
Survivors also include a sister, Bessie Williams.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1728 W. Montgomery Ave., where friends may call one hour earlier. Burial will be in Rolling Green Memorial Park, Route 202 and Route 3, West Chester.
EDWARD WEST CARSON
Edward West Carson, a retired manager for the Philadelphia Electric Co., died Sunday. He was 82 and lived in Haverford and in Eagles Mere, Sullivan County.
Carson joined the utility, now PECO Energy Co., in 1935 and retired as manager of service operations in 1974. He was an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Lansdowne and a trustee of the Presbyterian Church of Eagles Mere.
He was active as president of the Presbyterian Early Christian Men's Bible Class and the Presbyterian Social Union. At the time of his death, he was secretary of the Eagles Mere Water Co.
Carson, an Eagle scout, was a 1929 graduate of Lansdowne High School and received a degree in civil engineering from Cornell University in 1933, and an electrical engineering degree from Drexel University in 1937.
He was a 50-year member of the Lansdowne Masonic Lodge 711, a charter member of the Eagles Mere-Laporte Lions Club and a member of the St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia.
He had been a longtime resident of Lansdowne and a longtime member of the Union League. During his professional career, Carson was a member and officer of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Philadelphia and the Engineers Club.
He served as chairman of the building committee and as vice president of the board of trustees of the Delaware County Memorial Hospital and was on the building committee and the board of the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
In Eagles Mere, he served on the board and as president of the Eagles Mere Association.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, the former Elizabeth D. Scattergood; two daughters, Ann Gies and Jane Sims; a son, David, five grandchildren, and six great-grandsons.
A memorial service will be held in June.
Contributions may be made to the First Presbyterian Church of Lansdowne.
EUGENE OSBORNE SR.
Eugene Osborne Sr., a retired driver-salesman for Abbott's Dairies, died Saturday. He was 87 and lived in Hatboro, Montgomery County.
Osborne was 17 when he began working for Abbott's and was with the company for more than 40 years when he retired in 1969. He also had worked as a bus driver for the Springfield and William Penn school districts.
His wife, Mary Osborne, died in 1991. A daughter, Marie Osborne, also is deceased.
Survivors include a son, Eugene Osborne Jr.; a daughter, Ruth Welde; four grandchildren, and seven grandchildren.
Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the M.F. Williams Funeral Home, Baltimore and Summit avenues, Clifton Heights, where friends may call one hour earlier. Burial will be in Fernwood Cemetery, Baltimore Avenue, Fernwood, Delaware County.
Contributions may be made to the Arthritis Foundation of Eastern Pennsylvania, 1217 Sansom St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19107.
BERNICE W. MCCASKILL
Bernice W. McCaskill, a retired supervisor for the Hygrade Pretzel Co., died Feb. 16. She was 81 and lived in West Philadelphia.
McCaskill worked for Hygrade from 1944 to 1975. Situated for many years at 56th and Race streets, the company moved to Penns Grove, N.J., and McCaskill commuted there to work. When she retired, she was a supervisor of packers.
Known to family members as "Cousin Bun Bun," McCaskill was a gregarious woman who had the kind of hearty laugh that made everyone within earshot laugh along.
For many years she lived in the 1200 block of N. 60th Street and was treasurer of the block club. She was so popular with her neighbors that when she moved to a senior citizen apartment three years ago, they asked her to remain active with the club as an associate member. She also was a member of the tenant council at her apartment complex.
"She was very unassuming and sweet. She loved her church and loved her family dearly," said Vivian Jenkins, a cousin. "Kids especially loved hugging her and sitting all around her. When you did something for her, she was always grateful, like a sweet little girl. She was a beautiful person."
Raised in Riceboro, Ga., the former Bernice Waye completed high school at Dorchester Academy in Midway, Ga. She had been a member of Mount Carmel Baptist Church since 1938 and for years provided transportation to church to several congregation members.
Survivors also include two nieces, Bernice Miller and Ethel Love; two nephews, Eddie N. Waye and Harold Waye, and two other cousins, Verdie Walden and Geneva Jenkins.
Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, 58th and Race streets, where friends may call two hours earlier. Burial will be in Riceboro, Ga.