How to Memorialize a Death: Memorial Benches

A memorial bench beautifies your community while honoring a loved one

A memorial bench is a great way to honor a loved one.. Photo © Chris Raymond

During the past two decades, the number of ways you can memorialize a deceased loved one has increased significantly. No longer limited to a headstone or gravemarker within the confines of a cemetery, the ever-growing range of product and service options available today makes it relatively easy to select a fitting and meaningful tribute. This article explores how you can establish a memorial bench in a public place to honor a loved one.

"Adopt-A-Bench" in Central Park
Did you know that Central Park in New York City, New York, contains more than 9,000 benches? Every day, countless numbers of the park's 38 million annual visitors pause to rest on these benches and perhaps reflect on the beauty of a particular tree or water fountain, or simply marvel at the presence of this 843-acre "emerald gem" in the heart of a bustling metropolis.

What many might not notice, however, is that more than 2,000 of these benches bear small, engraved plaques, signifying that someone has "adopted" the bench -- often in memory of a deceased loved one. According to the Central Park Conservancy, the organization responsible for the park's maintenance and operation, one plaque bears this lovely inscription: "C'est Lui Pour Moi, Moi Pour Lui, Dans La Vie" (In life, there is only him for me, and me for him). Others bear the more traditional "In memory of..." format with the deceased's name and birth and death dates.

If this method of honoring a loved one appeals to you, then you might be surprised to learn that memorial-bench programs similar to Central Park's "Adopt-A-Bench" opportunity are available all over the country -- and perhaps even in your community.

Locating a Program
There are a several ways to locate an existing memorial-bench program near you.

The easiest is simply to spot such a bench and then inquire about it. You might find these benches in a city or state park, near bus stops, on the grounds of hospitals or other healthcare facilities, outside of a local business, etc.

If you can't locate an existing bench in a public place, search the Internet for "memorial benches in XYZ" and replace XYZ with "city park" or "state park" or the name of your city. (Simply searching for "memorial benches" generally shows too many manufacturers to prove useful.)

If this fails, then contact a local funeral home or cemetery and ask for suggestions. Often, these businesses maintain a list of memorialization resources and opportunities to suggest to a family when appropriate. You could also contact a memorial-bench manufacturer for suggestions, but you might also receive a sales pitch for their products.

If you still cannot find a local memorial-bench program, don't despair! In this era of dwindling resources and budget tightening, most local governments, businesses and other organizations will generally prove receptive if you offer to donate a bench for use in a public space, or to beautify the grounds.

And who knows -- your donation might just prove the catalyst necessary to formally establish a memorial-bench program, making it easier for others in the future.

The Cost
Prices for memorial benches vary widely. In New York City's Central Park, for example, it costs $7,500 to "adopt" an existing bench, and $25,000 to place a new bench in an area of the donor's choosing. In the Los Angeles, California, park system, adding an engraved plaque to an existing bench costs $1,000, while $3,000 includes a new personalized bench and the choice of where to locate it in one of more than 400 area parks.

By comparison, the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, offers a bargain: for $1,300, the donor receives a new park bench bearing an engraved bronze plaque, site preparation with a concrete pad, installation and maintenance for the life of the bench.

These are merely a few examples, but you should expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to "adopt" an existing bench, to many thousands to place a new personalized memorial bench. Regardless of what you ultimately decide to do and where it is located, establishing a memorial bench in a public place to honor your loved one is a meaningful tribute that you -- and many, many other people -- will enjoy for years to come.

"Adopt-A-Bench" by Elyse Newhouse, Jennifer Rich and Phyllis Cerf Wagner. Retrieved June 24, 2013.

"FAQ." Retrieved June 24, 2013.

"Donate-A-Bench." Retrieved June 24, 2013.

"Bench and Tree Memorials." Retrieved June 24, 2013.

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