Rev. Benjamin (Benny) Santiago, 69, went to rest in the arms of Jesus on January 10, 2022 at IU Health University Hospital in Indianapolis after years of health struggles. Benny was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico to Claudina Figueroa Rivera, December 17, 1952. He moved to New York City at the age of five. He grew up in the streets of Brooklyn, NY becoming involved with gang activity and drug abuse.
He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1970. On Good Friday, 1979 he was introduced to Jesus Christ by the late Rev. Dr. Hattie Downer. From that day forward, he dedicated the rest of his life to telling everyone he met about the saving power of Jesus.
He founded the United Prison Street Revival Ministry and graduated from Redeemer Bible Institute both in New York.
In 1983 he married Tammy and moved to Indiana where he became involved in prison ministry at the Pendleton Reformatory and the Pendleton Correctional Complex. He was also named the chaplain for the Madison County Youth Center.
The years of drug abuse took a toll on his body and he received a kidney transplant in 1986. We are forever grateful for the family who donated their loved one’s kidney.
He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Christian Ministry and Addictions Counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University and became an ordained minister with the Church of God (Anderson) in 1990.
In 1991 he founded the Madison County Sheriff’s Department Chaplaincy Program where he served as senior chaplain for 30 years until his death. During that time he also founded Project HOPE, a mentoring program for at-risk youth and was one of the founding members of the Indiana Sheriff’s Chaplaincy Conference. He was involved in numerous community service programs including the Anderson Noon Lions Club and advisory board for the Salvation Army. He received many awards and commendations over the years for his service to the community.
To know Benny was to love him. He enjoyed life to its fullest. He never met a stranger. He loved Jesus, he loved his wife, he loved his family, he loved people, and he loved this community. All who knew him know that he really enjoyed golf. The annual chaplaincy banquet and golf outing fundraisers are testaments to his commitment to unity and reconciliation. They brought together nearly 600 people every year from all segments of the community, from all races and all walks of life for a common cause.
His passing leaves a void that can never be filled. Well done thou good and faithful servant, you may take your rest.
Benny is survived by his loving wife of 38 years, Tammy (Vandaveer); one daughter, Lydia (Marco Vaughn) Santiago of Indianapolis, two spiritual sons, Nabin (Aruna) Timsina of Seattle, WA and Joseph (Haley) Otori of Dewitt, MI; one grandson, Kingston Vaughn, one uncle, a nephew, several nieces and cousins; parents-in-law, Bennie and Barbara Vandaveer, sisters-in-law, Renee Vandaveer and Robin (Donald) Brooks, all of Flora, IL.
He was preceded in death by his mother; two brothers, Wilfredo Figueroa and Reinaldo Lebron; and sister-in-law, Luz Figueroa.
Visitation will be held Friday, January 14, 2022 from 5:00 pm-8:00 pm and Saturday from 9:30 am-10:30 a.m. at the East Side Church of God (2600 E. 5th St., Anderson, IN).
Services will be conducted at the church on Saturday, January 15, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. with Rev. Ragen B. Mitchell (Sr. Pastor, Sherman Street Church of God) and Rev. Dr. Edward L. Foggs (General Director Emeritus, Church of God Ministries) officiating. Interment with military honors will immediately follow at Bronnenberg Cemetery in Chesterfield.
In accordance with public health guidelines, facial coverings will be required.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Madison County Sheriff’s Chaplaincy Program (P.O. Box 171, Anderson, IN 46017).