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Bench honors Spokane man

Glen Prosser installs the Dr. Bill Grainger memorial bench along the High Drive area. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)
Glen Prosser installs the Dr. Bill Grainger memorial bench along the High Drive area. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)

Sometimes you can create your own landmark.

That’s what Suzanne Grainger decided to do in memory of her husband, Spokane orthopedic surgeon Dr. David William “Bill” Grainger, who was 76 when he died last May while on vacation in Hawaii. Even though his death was unexpected, as people of mature years, they had discussed what each might do for the other when one of them died.

“We have been here in Spokane for 35 years and just love the outdoors; it’s such a beautiful city,” Suzanne Grainger said, remembering how her husband loved to ski, hike, fish and enjoy all that the region offered. “I thought a memorial bench for Bill along the Spokane River might be something nice and something fitting.”

Now, you can’t just put a bench anywhere you want to, so Grainger contacted Taylor Bressler, division manager in charge of parks planning and development for the city of Spokane. They checked some locations along the Centennial Trail, but suitable sites were either not owned by the city or were too difficult for her to access easily. Then one of her sons suggested looking at the walking trail along the rim of High Drive on the South Hill, which is not far from where Grainger lives.

It was perfect.

The rest had to do with the details. The bench had to conform to durability standards set by the city and also be appropriate for the locale. It also could not conflict with neighbors’ aesthetics or underground utilities. Once the specifics were approved by Bressler, the bench was installed by Glen Prosser of Prosser & Sons, a local company that has been installing playground equipment and site furnishings in the area since 1981.

The entire project was paid for by Suzanne Grainger. A small and unobtrusive engraved stone plaque by the bench reads: “In loving memory of Dr. Bill Grainger, 1933-2009, from his family and friends.”

This is not the first memorial bench installed in Spokane. Bressler said there have been perhaps 10 in the past 10 years, including one earlier this year along the Centennial Trail near the old St. Luke’s Hospital on the north side of town, and several benches in Manito Park dedicated to loved ones. Some are masonry benches appropriate for park settings while others are made of heavy galvanized material and plastic lumber, like the one for Grainger.

But benches aren’t the only types of site furnishings that can be paid-for memorials to family and friends, Bressler said. Benches and picnic tables run about $1,000, while water fountains can cost $7,000 and above.

In early 2010, the Spokane Parks Foundation will be coming out with a catalog of things that can be done and gifted to the parks as memorials, Bressler added. Visit spokaneparks or call (509) 326-5233 for information about that. For information about pursuing a specific project, like the one created by Suzanne Grainger, contact Bressler at

“I was at the bench recently, taking some tape off the plaque, and someone asked me if I knew who was responsible for the bench,” Grainger said. “When I said it was me, the woman thanked me. So many people who jog or walk their dogs by there stop and sit and look at the view, like one elderly man who said he likes to sit there and watch the trains as they pass by across Highway 195.

“That’s just what I had in mind: a lovely spot to enjoy the out of doors, in Bill’s memory.”

She said she hopes to be around for a long time yet, but that when she’s gone, she wouldn’t mind at all if her family installed a bench just like this one somewhere in Spokane’s beautiful outdoors for others to enjoy as well.

Benches such as these are nice ways to create personal as well as public landmarks as a memorial for a loved one.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by e-mail at