A bench with a view placed in memorium

BC Parks’ program helps celebrate memories of leisurely hours by the lake

Theresa Grunerud sits on the bench dedicated to her late husband Gordon at Premier Lake this summer. The BC Park Bench Challenge officially ended last week after all benches were snatched up.

It was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the life of an avid fisherman and outdoorsman when B.C. launched its 100 Park Bench Challenge in 2011.

Two benches were placed at local Provincial Parks this year, one at Premier Lake and the other at Wasa Lake. Debbie Mandryk organized the bench at Premier to celebrate the memory of her father who passed away 10 years ago. Now, Gordon Grunerud’s memory will be felt at the very lake where he spent many summer days fishing and camping.

“Premier was their favourite lake to go to,” said Debbie of her parents. “It just seemed to fit together.”

BC Parks announced last week that the program has officially sold out all 100 benches. A second bench was installed by Teck at Wasa Lake along with 11 others in places where the company operates. Many other benches were installed around the province this year in memory of loved ones.

While benches are always available to be purchased for memorials in the province, the 100 Park Bench Challenge was launched in 2011 to celebrate 100 years of BC Parks. For more information on the program visit www.bcparkbench.ca.

When Debbie heard about the 100 Benches project, she decided it would be the perfect way for her family to remember Gordon. Premier Lake wasn’t initially on the list for a bench, but after Debbie contacted BC Parks they decided it would be a great location. Debbie said they picked the perfect spot – on the provincial park end of the lake on the edge of the beach towards the fish ladders.

“That’s where we wanted it,” she said.

While they were scouting the location, Debbie said she noticed other benches at the beach under water, so they picked a little knoll that would keep the bench dry year-round. It also afforded breath-taking views of the Rocky Mountains with the crystal-clear lake below.

“It’s very peaceful,” Debbie said.

Keeping with her father’s favourite pastime, Debbie said that if a determined fisherman wanted to, they could even catch a few fish from the point.

“You could fish off it if you wanted to,” she said.

There isn’t any one reason why Gordon and Theresa loved Premier Lake so much, but Debbie said the long drive and four to five kilometres of gravel road creates a quiet place to get out and enjoy the wilderness for the weekend.

“You get the people in there that want a peaceful getaway,” she said.

The family has camped there many times throughout the years. Debbie said the sites are often used by fishermen heading out on the lake, or hunters using the spot as a base camp. The provincial park end of the lake doesn’t allow high-powered motorboats, so peace and quiet is maintained.

Debbie remembers her father couldn’t swim, but he always eagerly waded out with his grandchildren.

“Being 6’4″ he could walk out further than anyone else,” she said. “He loved taking the grandkids there.”

The bench was co-ordinated in secret in an attempt to surprise Debbie’s mother Theresa Grunderud on a trip to the lake. It was installed between May and June, but Debbie said they had to wait for the perfect time to get away and show Theresa the new memorial. Unfortunately, before they were able to whisk her away, a neighbour spotted the bench and asked Theresa about it; but even after someone spilled the beans, the big reveal was still a special moment.

“She was quite moved by it,” Debbie said.

The family had lunch at the spot with Theresa and have been back to visit several times throughout the summer to camp.

“Morning coffee was always on the bench,” Debbie said.

Working with BC Parks, Debbie said they were able to personalize the bench. The family added a quote to his name: “Work is for people who don’t know how to fish.”

Debbie said she’s happy the 100 Park Bench Challenge happened so that the family was able to have such a beautiful site to remember her father.

“It sort of gives us peace knowing his spirit is there.”