Who are the bench peo­ple?

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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