Teresa Bendokas Heinfeld, director of systems and technology at addiction treatment center Crossroads and a fierce advocate for people in recovery, died Jan. 5 from complications of liver disease. She was 42.

Teresa “Tree” Bendokas Courtesy photo

Bendokas, known lovingly as “Tree,” was remembered last week as a strong, funny, and compassionate person, who devoted her life to her children, Marley, 11, and Emmett, 7.

Her mother, Lois Bendokas of Block Island, Rhode Island, said she was the kind of mom who left notes in her kids lunchboxes. She said when her son woke up at 3 a.m. and wanted to play dinosaurs, she got on the floor to play with him. When her daughter went to summer camp on a farm, she put a note in her backpack that said, “Go out and have fun today and get covered in mud. I love you,” she recalled.

“She was always encouraging them to be adventurists and go out and enjoy the world,” her mother said. “That’s exactly what they are. They are wonderful kids.”

Bendokas grew up in Block Island, the only child of Lois and William Bendokas. She graduated from Community College of Rhode Island with a degree in social work.

In 2007, Bendokas landed her dream job working for Crossroads as an intake coordinator. She was named outpatient practice manager in 2011. She then joined the IT department as systems administrator. She was director of systems and technology at Crossroads for nine years. She was remembered by colleagues last week as a “data queen,” who made an impact on many across the agency.

Advertisement

“She was really committed to the organization and the clients we serve,” said Shannon Trainor, chief executive officer at Crossroads. “She was very passionate about women in treatment. She was awesome. She wasn’t just my employee; she was my friend. She was funny as hell. She had such a great sense of humor.”

Bendokas was a member of Crossroads’ senior leadership team. She led various training sessions, including its electronic health records system. Trainor said Bendokas’ voice was used for all their radio advertisements.

“It’s hard; Tree is literally around every corner,” Trainor said. “Every email setup … everything ran though Tree from the IT perspective. She had many roles at Crossroads. From a business perspective, it’s a significant loss.”

Crossroads shared the news of her passing on Facebook, which drew more than 30 comments from colleagues, staff and former clients. The pictures of Bendokas posted on Facebook show her involvement and commitment to the organization she cared so deeply about.

Amanda Kurlanski of Portland, a former counselor at Crossroads, wrote on Facebook she loved working with Bendokas.

“This is such sad news,” Kurlanski wrote. “I loved working with Tree. She was such an amazing person. My thoughts are with staff and her family.”

Advertisement

Lisa Britton Nassif wrote: “I’m so sorry for everyone’s loss. I hear her voice on the radio ads and think how calming she was. RIP Tree. You will be missed by all.”

Bendokas lived in Freeport with her children. Her mother said Bendokas contracted COVID-19 in June and developed symptoms including loss of taste and smell and neuropathy. She said Bendokas underwent emergency surgery after her gallbladder ruptured. As her health started to improve, Bendokas developed issues with her liver.

Her mother said she had fatty liver disease since her 20s. She said in June, she moved to Maine to help her daughter with the kids.

Bendokas always put her kids on the school bus before work. She was involved in her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, and always made sure her son had the right stuffed animal by his side.

“Her son was an attachment of her body. They were inseparable,” her mother said. “I’ll miss her hugs and seeing her with her babies. She would come to the island every summer, sometimes for Thanksgiving or Christmas. They were one phenomenally happy family.”

A memorial service will be held on Block Island this summer. A Mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Jan. 22 at Holy Martyrs Church in Falmouth. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Freeport Friends and the Mary D. Fund on Block Island.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.