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Maritime memorial for Fred Benko

Beloved seafarer and popular boating captain Fred Benko will be remembered a week from today, at a place near and dear to his heart.

The longtime captain of the Condor Express passed away Thursday at the age of 73 after battling a long illness.

The marine expert treated those aboard his whale watching excursions to magnificent encounters with gray whales, humpbacks, blues and orcas, and all of the sea life found in the Santa Barbara Channel.

His daughter, Dody Livingston, recalled how Benko had a special love for teaching people, especially children, about the wonders of the ocean. And how he lived life to the fullest. “It was just full throttle. It was all or nothing with him, his whole life. He lived that way.”

Current Condor Captain Mat Curto said he’ll miss his mentor’s daily phone calls the most. “No matter where he was, Croatia, Africa, Cabo, he called every day to see how the boat was, how many people went out, how whale watching was.”

A community service to honor Benko will be held Friday, March 15 at Santa Barbara’s Maritime Museum from 3-5 p.m.

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