City bench plaques get another chance to make first impression

Patty Zakordonski thinks it’s a bit of vintage Edmonton that people can stop and sit on a bench jewelled with a name of someone they haven’t heard of. 

“If you’re famous and well-known it might be easier to get your name on things, but the Benchmark program is a way that regular citizens can commemorate someone or an event on a plaque, or be commemorated,” said Zakordonski. 

“And that contributes to the liveability of our city.”

You don’t have to be famous. Just loved, and remembered. Maybe you were a father.

Zakordonski, who is the Benchmark Program Coordinator, is relieved these days.

City of Edmonton work crews have almost finished re-attaching to benches the name plaques damaged and stolen earlier this year. The cast bronze plaques have been refurbished and re-secured on benches that grace Victoria Promenade and nearby Grant Notley Park.

“It was deeply saddening,” she said of the crime.

Police work, art work

The Edmonton Police Service charged a suspect in the case and returned to the City approximately 100 plaques, many of which had been glued together with a construction-industry adhesive.

At the Behrends Bronze foundry, experts dipped the damaged goods in an acid bath, and then re-sandblasted and re-finished them. 

Here’s a look at some of the plaques with the glue removed:

And here’s what some of the plaques looked like when the City picked them up. 

“They looked brand new,” said Zakordonski.

Some detective work, too

Not all the plaques were recovered, though.

Zakordonski and team went back to their records to figure out which ones had to be recast at Behrends. Those plaques are now finished.

Each plaque will be re-attached to the bench it was originally on. Open Space Furnishings Team Leader Romeo Zoldan has numbered the benches to help make sure the plaques get back to where they belong.

You can see a sign of the Zoldan index work in the pic at the top of the post, where the “Sadie McHugh – Loved By Many” plaque is being put back on the bench tagged with the number 25 in Notley Park.

“And, so far, so good,” said Zakordonski.

City crew member uses clamp to install refurbished plaque, May 15, 2020

Connection

Zakordonski said the benches adorned again with the plaques containing the names of Edmontonians mean broken connections have been restored. 

“The plaques and the benches add to the sense of place, and they are a way of connecting citizens to parks and green spaces and to each other on another level,” said Zakordonski.

 Happy Fathers Day this weekend to the fathers with us and those we remember

Bronze mettle

For the craftspeople at Behrends, the new plaques help remove the sting of the theft.

“It is very painful to see the theft of bronze, and, more specifically, these bronze plaques as they commemorate someone who has passed, someone who was loved and someone who is cherished and remembered every day,” said Giovanni Russo, General Manager, Business Development.

“We are very grateful to work with the City of Edmonton and to help in the re-finishing of the recovered plaques and manufacturing of the missing ones.”

Refurbished plaque on bench, May 15, 2020

Editor’s note: Benchmark program requests are currently on pause during the COVID-19 reality.