“The boys are back together again.”
Lynne Barclay beamed with pride and fought back the tears as she looked on for the first time at the park bench now dedicated to her late husband, Cliff, and his two lifelong pals, Ray Galawan and Tom Ross.
Barclay - along with Galawan’s and Ross’ widows, Margaret and Bonnie - had been fighting for almost a year to have the City of Richmond relax its maximum two-plaque rule on a bench at Finn Slough, overlooking the south arm of the Fraser River.
For several years, only Cliff was memorialized on the bench, as part of the city-wide program, which allows grieving relatives to remember their loved ones.
When his best friends Ray and Tom recently passed away, all three widows had the idea of having the trio remembered on the same bench, at a place where they all spent a chunk of their time while living.
And after Lynne enlisted the help of city councillors and the Richmond News, the city changed its mind this summer and passed a new policy which allowed three plaques on such benches.
“It was well worth the fight, but we didn’t do it alone. We had help from Richmond city council and from the Richmond News,” said an emotional Lynne, standing by the refurbished bench Friday morning.
“We are from an older generation, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have any fight left in us. I don’t give up easily. You have to fight for what you think is right.”
Bonnie said it was, “nice to see (their husbands) all back together again.”
Lynne said in January that their husbands “were such good friends for so many years…it would just be a crime to separate them now.”
At a city council meeting in July, councillors approved a staff recommendation to increase the maximum number of plaques per bench to three and the maximum number of plaques per picnic table to eight.
Staff had expressed concerns about the amount of "clear" space available on a bench for sitting, should council decide to allow three plaques.
“This can pose a challenge as the plaques are sometimes perceived as private memorial markers, in front of which some individuals prefer not to sit out of respect,” read the report.
At the same meeting, city council approved a plan for a one-time, 10-year renewal exemption for the 357 families who had bench/table memorial plaques erected prior to a city policy change in 2003.
“As several program participants have expressed that they were unaware of the policy update in 2003 and the introduction of the renewal terms, this would allow thein an additional 10 years to prepare for the renewal process,” added the report.
“The ongoing maintenance and replacement costs for the next 10 years will continue to be funded through existing operating budgets, including the bench and picnic table donation accounts.”
“Over the next 10 years (2020- 2029), an additional $241,500 is projected to be generated from the renewal of 78 dedications made in the period 2010 - 2019.”
However, the impact of the exemption means that the “opportunity for natural turnover” of bench and table memorials will be delayed.
As a result, city staff will have to direct new dedication enquiries to parks and trails that have available capacity, such as:
• Aberdeen Neighbourhood Park;
• Blundell Neighbourhood Park;
• Garden City Community Park;
• Hugh Boyd Community Park;
• King George Community Park;
• Lang Park;
• Railway Greenway;
• Richmond Nature Park;
• South Arm Community Park.