Who are the bench people?
Bob Boyes knows a story or two that he likes to tell about his wife Junella.
He could tell you about the time they first met on the dance floor when they were just 16-years-old at the town hall in Dunedin.
He could tell you about how she raised more than $400,000 to build an indoor arena for the Riding for the Disabled in Marlborough; as well as 42 years of happy marriage while supporting his wife’s volunteering work.
He could also tell you about the time they were holidaying in the North Island when Junella became very ill and soon after died from bowel cancer in 2010.
But he hopes that the park bench he helped erect at Fairhall Cemetery next to her grave can help keep her memory alive.
‘‘I come here and sit, and just relax. So do a lot of other people,’’ says Boyes as he sits quietly petting his dog Benson.
‘‘Funnily enough you do feel close to her presence here, and her memories. They’re on your mind every minute of the day.
‘‘I guess a lot of the park benches are in recognition of the loss, of course. But they are also here to let people know about the effort they gave to their community. That’s worth a sign with her name on it. That’s what it’s for.’’
Boyes, 71, said he wished he could go back in time, and urged people to put their health first.
When Junella started feeling sick 18 months before she died, Boyes wished he asked more questions.
‘‘People spend money on all sorts of things – washing machines, phones, TVs.
‘‘And they ask questions about the things they buy. They get all worried about how long those things will last. But no-one asks questions about their health.
‘‘I wish we had asked more about Junella’s condition, I wish we had talked to the doctors to send her to a specialist. That’s what I want to make clear. Maybe she would be here today.’’
But more than anything Boyes wanted people to know Junella’s story and the energy and commitment she gave to her community. Especially the decade Junella spent raising funds for the indoor arena for Marlborough’s Riding for the Disabled.
‘‘Kids couldn’t ride in the frost, it was too slippery for the horses and then there was the baking sun. They couldn’t ride out in the sun. So, she came home one day and said to me, ‘Bob’, she said, ‘we need an indoor arena’. So, she got me on board and Iwas the driver of that but she was the one that set it all up.
‘‘We had Princess Anne out here to open it. It’s incredible what Junella could do. We raised just over $400,000. We actually got the dump site from the council. So, in the end it took 12 years to raise the money, get the site and then we had to doze it all off.’’
Nowadays, semi-retired Boyes helps erect park benches for the Marlborough District Council.
‘‘The council is very supportive of anyone who wants to build a park bench for someone,’’ he said. ‘‘You pay for the plaque, and the seat, and they will lay the concrete down and put it in place.
‘‘Nowadays, that’s what I do for other people ... It’s always interesting to think about their names too, and what they got up to.’’
Bob Boyes and his dog Benson, with a picture of Junella.