A Miami family, with the cooperation of Mayor Brent Brassfield and other city officials, has set out on a campaign to promote the placement of “Memory Benches” in city parks, cemeteries, along Main Street and various other locations in the community.
The project, they say, is not only a way of beautifying the community while giving its citizens a place to relax, but it also pays tribute to loved ones who have passed on.
Bob and Carolyn Anderson know first hand the importance of keeping a memory alive.
The Andersons' daughter, Lisa (Anderson) Owens, graduated from Miami High School in 1980. She married Jerry Owens, the nephew of Miami's famous Heisman winner Steve Owens. The Owens' made their home in Muskogee. One year ago this month, Lisa lost her battle with cancer.
According to Carolyn Anderson, her daughter's favorite place on Earth was Honor Heights Park, a 122-acre park in Muskogee known for its annual azalea festival and garden of lights festival.
“It's where she went to exhale,” Carolyn Anderson said. “She would just sit in the rose gardens watching the fountains and relax from everyday stress.”
Today, a bench bearing the inscription “Think of me -Lisa” overlooks the rose gardens at Honor Heights Park. Lisa's family was able to have the bench placed in the park due to a memorial bench program.
The benches are made at Oklahoma Correctional Industries. They are constructed of a heavy metal tubing and coated with a moisture- and heat-resistant finish that gives them an overall aesthetic appearance.
In honor of the centennial, the benches have been modified this year with the centennial seal and a handsome bronze plaque that bears the name of the lost loved one and donor.
Honor Heights Park's memorial bench program, according to Park Superintendent Rick Ewing, serves many purposes - it gives families a place to connect with a lost loved one, it serves members of the community with a place to relax at no expense to the park and it gives Oklahoma inmates a life skill.
It is the hope of Bob and Carolyn Anderson, both retired educators, that Miami's Parks and Recreation Department will approve a similar program.
“We want our community to have a program like the one at Honor Heights,” Bob Anderson said. “I'm sure there are many people who would purchase the benches in memory of their loved ones.”
Brassfield said he will approach the Parks and Recreation Department about the program at its June meeting.