September 13, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

You may not have even noticed them, the plaques are fairly modest. The small bronze rectangle is set discretely in the concrete pad, right next to each designated metal bench. But each one carries a small message or memory of someone now gone.


A while back, someone at theAustin Parks Department instituted a wonderful project that makes it possible to honor the memory of a deceased loved one in a place that is meaningful. These memorials are metal benches placed along trails, in parks, and around other public spaces. For the Parks Department, this fundraiser makes seating upgrades and new bench placements possible in a time when budgets are stretched thin. For the public, this makes it possible for personal connections in an otherwise public arena.


And once you start to notice, those personal tributes are shared with everyone. There’s even an interactive website that locates every bench in the program. They are all over Austin! I checked recently to find one in South Austin. The bench is at the beginning of a walking trail in Dick Nichols District Park, right next to the playground. The website shows the bench location and gives information about the person memorialized: Melody Simmons. Melody died on November 10, 2003. Several on-line searches didn’t turn up any information about this person, but her memory is connected to a comfortable bench under the leaves of a spreading oak tree.


Melody Simmons Memorial Bench, Dick Nichols District Park, 8101 Beckett Rd., Austin, Texas