By Gerald Dlubala
The use of memorial benches as structures to honor someone is becoming more common among individuals, groups, and organizations.
We’ve all walked by, or perhaps even sat on, a smartly placed park bench in our local park and noticed a nameplate or plaque on the bench, designating it as a bench for an historical event, local good Samaritan, or outstanding park fundraiser, supporter, or donor.
Their legacy lives on because of a funded or donated memorial park bench, installed in a public place for all to see, take notice, and remember.
Memorial benches have caught on in a big way, and are now being erected by diverse groups for a number of unique circumstances and occasions.
Today it’s not just municipalities and government organizations funding a memorial for a city leader that was popular in town. Now other groups are finding memorial benches as a fitting way to honor many people in their towns.
Local organizations use memorial benches as healing areas
Local organizations are realizing the dual functions of memorial benches. First and foremost is the honoring and remembering of the person or persons being memorialized.
By being installed in specific locations, memorial benches offer a calming, hopefully healing place to sit, rest, and reflect on the events that led to the benches being erected in the first place.
The Taylorsville-Winfield Lions Club of Carroll City Maryland is just one example. When the club was offered a chance to be part of the area’s first park development, they didn’t hesitate in donating a bench with their familiar Lions Club marker on it along with their specific club name and logo.
Linda Brady, Club President said, “Installing a bench with our name on it was a way of letting residents know that our Lion’s Club is here, and actively helping people”. The bench was thoughtfully placed across from the playground so parents could relax while watching over their kids. It was a much needed, and much appreciated, donation.
Likewise, the Safford Lions Club in Safford, Arizona, donated four memorial benches for use at the hospice memorial on Waster Arizona College’s Discovery Park Campus. Connecting with the community by showing compassion and giving patrons a quality, restful space to sit, relax, and remember their loved ones, the installation of the benches were much appreciated.
A local Girl Scout troop in Flora, Indiana, acted on their own when tragedy struck and four of their classmates and troop members were killed in a house fire. Shortly after, two more girls were murdered along a well-known trail in the same area. They had fundraisers and supporting events to help raise funds for memorial benches for each of the six girls.
These benches were dedicated and installed in the courtyard at the school that the girls attended. By giving all affected a place to sit, grieve, and heal while staying within the school grounds, the memorial benches are a constant reminder of the friendship and caring attitude that all the classmates shared.
Memorial park benches serve prominent roles In beautification and passion projects
A great use of memorial benches is in the beautification projects of communities like Gardnerville Nevada, and at the Massena Public Library in Massena, New York.
Main Street Gardnerville, Nevada, has been undergoing a beautification project along its downtown district, and the installation of memorial benches plays a big part in the project.
They are installing memorial benches along Highway 395 which runs right through their downtown district. The benches are open to sponsorships from service groups, local businesses, families or individuals.
The latest example is a family sponsored bench for Garry D Stone, a native Nevada resident that “worked a lifetime in service” for several counties.
In sticking with his passion, his memorial bench is being installed with unobstructed, breathtaking views of the Sierras, which his family says would’ve made him very happy.
The Massena Public Library, in Massena, New York, is resurrecting a beautification project that includes memorial benches, but began with a simple memorial tree garden.
The benches, able to be adopted by community members and organizations, will be an important part of their beautification project, offering library patrons a calming and relaxing outdoor space for quiet time, reading, or just hanging out and enjoying nature.
Tell a story with a memorial bench
Memorial benches tell individual stories along The Strand on Manhattan Beach, California. Up to 44 memorial benches are placed along and around the walkway, or tucked in alcoves, creating perfect spots to sit and enjoy the scenery of the beach, the horizon, and people watching.
But these aren’t just any memorial benches. Each holds a personal story of the loved one honored by the bench. And each bench is created to fit in with the landscape while simultaneously being a contracted piece of art and design by Stacy Dukes, a local artist.
Before the memorial bench is contracted, Dukes gets the life story, so as to add a personal element to the bench. Additionally, each bench contains a secret compartment within the bench sculpture, the location known only to the donor and the artist, that holds a personal memento, similar to a time capsule. In this way, Dukes says his benches “fit the site and emphasize the spiritual”.
Sometimes a loved one’s passion is incorporated into a memorial bench, making it as unique as the person it honors.
In Phoenix, Arizona, such was the case with Debra Hartin, an avid outdoorswoman, hiker, triathlon participant, and lover of nature.
When a mountain biking accident ultimately led to Debra’s passing, some of the family found themselves a few days after the funeral hiking in one of Debra’s favorite spots, the Usery Mountains Regional Park.
It was there that they noticed other memorial park benches honoring those that lived their life with a passion for the outdoors. The plaques were all unique, reflecting the individual’s spirit and relationship with nature.
Some even mentioned personal bits of information, such as favorite pastimes, and read like a short biography. They decided to honor Debra and her passion for the outdoors by getting a memorial bench for her in her favorite park.
Patrons to the park rave about the benches and their individuality, even calling them a “spiritual experience,” finding themselves wanting more information about the people the benches honor.
That is a great legacy to leave. Other options that they make available are memorial picnic tables and gazebos, all with the same purpose.
Memorial benches provide physical and spiritual relief
Memorial benches are available for all types of reasons, and they’re definitely not just for the pathways of the local park anymore.
They’re easily adaptable and can be arranged individually or in groups, all representing a common purpose. Within a memorial situation, patrons and visitors to the benches will remember, recollect, and honor those that are being memorialized.
They get physical relief by taking a seat and resting. While they rest, they can heal mentally and spiritually while remembering their loved ones.
Another great benefit of a memorial bench is that they are easy to purchase and install. Other types of tributes might take a bit of time and wrangling trying to decide the type of memorial whether it’s a statue, painting or a plaque.
But with a memorial bench, a person can easily order the bench and send in the message they want to be inscribed. The process is simple. And the benefits of the bench will last for decades.
Providing quality memorial benches for family, friends, and visitors with common interests to sit together and support each other is certainly becoming one of the most popular ways to honor someone in this day and age.