Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Memorial benches frozen

Grieving relative mourns monument moratorium

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Depoe Bay has nearly three dozen memorial benches spread across scenic viewpoints in the harbor and rocky ocean headlands. The popular program has been put on hold, however. (Photos by Rick Beasley)
Depoe Bay has nearly three dozen memorial benches spread across scenic viewpoints in the harbor and rocky ocean headlands. The popular program has been put on hold, however. (Photos by Rick Beasley)

DEPOE BAY — The city council has turned away a grieving relative and declared the town’s memorial bench program “on hold” because of a global shortage of plastics to build the celebratory seats.

The decision followed news that the Bill Spores Memorial Bench, ordered in April, won’t arrive until September. Six additional memorial benches that have been ordered have no set delivery dates, at all. “Plastic wood is not being made,” explained public works chief Brady Weidner, who said Chinese and Gulf Coast supply lines are bottlenecked or closed down due to the global pandemic or bad weather.

Alec “Jeff” Bodenweiser is remembered with an oceanfront table in his name. A retired U.S. Marine officer who claimed Depoe Bay as a second home, he earned the Silver Star in the famous battle for Hill 861-A at Khe Sanh on Feb. 5, 1968.
Alec “Jeff” Bodenweiser is remembered with an oceanfront table in his name. A retired U.S. Marine officer who claimed Depoe Bay as a second home, he earned the Silver Star in the famous battle for Hill 861-A at Khe Sanh on Feb. 5, 1968.

At a July city council meeting, the anguished kin of a deceased resident complained about the memorial bench shortage, but found no consolation. City officials also worry they’re running out of room for the $2,000 benches, with nearly three dozen already spread across scenic viewpoints in the harbor and rocky ocean headlands. Some town elders would like to pull the plug on the popular program altogether.

“We need to do something different, get creative, like plaques on trees,” asserted Councilor Fran Recht. “Everywhere I look there’s a bench in my scenic view. “

Visitors and residents are easily drawn to the city’s memorial benches, a popular way to celebrate the life of a leading resident. Some town elders would like to end the program.
Visitors and residents are easily drawn to the city’s memorial benches, a popular way to celebrate the life of a leading resident. Some town elders would like to end the program.

Weidner, the city superintendent, estimated there are 33 or more memorial benches dedicated to leading as well as lesser-known citizens, with a Parks Commission audit underway to get a firm number. After paying $1,000 for a plastic bench, a separate bronze plaque, concrete and city crew installation, the $2,000 price is “break-even” for the town. But maintenance of bench sites and an undercurrent of vandalism have made the memorials as much a liability as an asset, he added.

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Rick Beasley
Rick Beasley is a simple writer who collects sniper rifles for a hobby. During an astonishing publishing career that spans five decades and continues at Lincoln City Homepage, he has collected 17 awards for excellence in journalism from various organizations including nine first-place Best Writing awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

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