A unique memorial bench now stands in downtown Oregon behind the Coliseum in John Phelps Park to recognize the many contributions made by a lifelong Oregon man, Steven G. Benesh.
The idea for the bench was a culmination by local residents who wanted to honor Benesh who died in 2016.
“Michal Burnett from the Ogle County Historical Society was approached by Steve’s grandson, Blake, on how to utilize some of the historical artifacts that Steve had collected over the years,” said Mike Bowers, one of the volunteers who worked on the bench project. “Michal contacted Oregon City Administrator Darin DeHaan about the possibility of locating another memorial bench in John Phelps Park, who then contacted me about the project. Working with Blake and his dad, Tony, we found parts we thought would be representative of Steve’s wide range of knowledge and interest in local history.”
Benesh (1941 – 2016) lived and farmed in Ogle County his entire life and founded Steve Benesh and Sons, a construction business.
“He was interested and known for his expansive knowledge of the history of his home town and county,” said Bowers. “This memorial bench frame is made from pieces of Steve’s construction equipment and previously used materials.”
Every aspect of the new bench reflects Benesh’s work:
— The ends (arm rests) are idler wheels from Benesh’s Caterpillar 3T D7 bulldozer and the bases under the idler wheels are grouser pads (similar to tire treads) from a Komatsu 200 excavator.
— The cross members the stone rests on are 2 inch by 2 inch solid steel and the stone used for the seat was a capstone, believed to be Indiana (Bedford) limestone, from one of the balconies over the main entrances of the Nash School which Steve Benesh and Sons partially demolished in 1984 for what is now the Nash Recreation Center, owned by the Oregon Park District.
“I was honored to be considered to take part in this project and feel it necessary to recognize the following people who made this possible,” said Bowers. “Oregon City Council and Commissioner Melanie Cozzi for approval and location of the bench. Joe Arwood helping with the design and for the shaping, cutting and welding of the metal components. Ron Rackow [Ron’s Auto Body and Sandblasting] provided the materials and labor to sandblast and paint the bench.
“Tom Klein donated his time and equipment to carve the wording into the back boards of the bench. Dan Flanagan squared the base of the stone used for the seat. Steve’s grandsons Jason and Jeremy and their families provided the stamped concrete pad for the bench to rest on. Dale Beesing [Beesing Welding] provided the stainless steel anchors. Roger Cain did the leg work needed to manufacture the historical markers for this bench and the Phelps Summer Kitchen,” said Bowers.
“I find myself humbled once again by the willingness of the people involved who stepped up to make this a reality. The Oregon area is fortunate to have people that are so willing to give of themselves and their time,” he said.
The bench can be seen in the park behind the Oregon Coliseum in the 100 block of N. Fifth Street.
Editor’s note: This story was edited to correct the relationship of between Steve, Tim and Tony Benesh.