Beach Bench Goes Missing

Compo is a big beach.

You can do anything there — or nothing at all. A favorite pastime is sitting on one of the dozens of handsome, heavy wooden benches. They’re everywhere, from Schlaet’s Point to the cannons and Ned Dimes Marina.

The benches blend unobtrusively into the landscape. But each one bears a small plaque. Each memorializes a man or woman, whose family and friends honor them in this special way.

It’s hard to imagine anything could go wrong with these timeless benches. But alert — and anguished — reader Laurie Crouse writes:

In 2011, after my husband Martin passed away, I purchased a bench from Parks & Rec. It was placed in a spot that was special to him and me, on South Beach facing the sunset.

This bench has provided great comfort through the years. It’s a sacred spot for me, because we did not do a traditional cemetery burial.

On the bench is an engraved plate: “I’ll meet you at the sunset.” That’s what we always said when we would head to the beach at the end of the day. His name — Martin Crouse — is at the top of the plaque. The years he lived are below it.

Right after I got the bench in September 2011, Hurricane Sandy struck. When I visited the bench after the storm, it was gone.

I was devastated.

In the center of the beach near the skateboard park, Parks & Rec created a staging zone for many recovered items, including benches that had been scattered.

Martin’s bench never showed up.

A couple of weeks later, someone on the far end of Owenoke called me and said the bench ended up in their yard. A visitor had recognized his name. and told her how to reach me.

Martin Crouse

I was thrilled. Parks & Rec got the bench from her. and returned it to our devoted spot. It’s been there for nearly 10 years.

Today I went to sit at the beach. Once again, the bench was gone.

These benches are heavy! You can’t drag them very far. You need multiple people to move them.

I walked the beach. I looked at every name plate on every bench. I don’t see it anywhere.

I called Parks & Rec. They searched. But they cannot find it.

The now-vacant spot for Martin Crouse’s bench.

I hope you can share this with “06880” readers. It would be nice to have multiple eyes out, in case I missed it somehow.

More importantly, the public needs to understand more about these memorial benches.

Each bench you see was purchased in dedication for a loved one. I’ve noticed over the years that more and more people move them, turn them around and leave them wherever they see fit, without understanding that the chosen spots are important to the people who purchased them.

We have donated them to the town so the public can enjoy them. But there is a story behind each one.

If there was a greater awareness, perhaps people would be more respectful. Thank you!

Martin and Laurie Crouse.

34 responses to “Beach Bench Goes Missing

  1. I hope this bench is recovered and that all remaining benches remain where they are.

  2. Susan Iseman

    Laurie, such a heartbreaking story. I hope the bench turns up soon. (I miss following you at open houses 🙂

  3. Shellie Tapfar

    This is truly heartbreaking. So sad. I, too, have a bench dedicated to my husband’s memory and I would be devastated if it went missing. I truly hope it is returned.

  4. Oh Laurie, I’m so sorry. I fervently hope the bench is found and returned quickly.

  5. Darryl C. Manning

    My heart goes out to you. I’ve had similar issues with the bench my brothers and I had dedicated to my mother 10 years ago. I scoured the beach 2 years ago, to no avail. Then last summer, I found it! They get moved around alot. I do hope it is recovered and replaced.

  6. SO Sorry Laurie. I will look for it when I go to the beach. I hope it is returned.xo

  7. Virginia Jaffe

    Oh my goodness so sorry to hear the bench is missing how sad! Not sure how it works here but in England you donate to the local council by way of a fund raiser, which allows you to place a monument to a loved one. That way the local council set the benches in concrete so they cannot be moved

  8. Daryl Styner-Presley

    It is truly disappointing to read a story like this, in a town like ours. I too will look intently for Laurie’s bench when down at Compo, & hopefully be able to return it to its intended special spot.

  9. Carol Buffinton

    I hope we can help find your bench Laurie.

  10. Jill Turner Odice

    How awful and incredibly tacky for somebody to have taken his memorial! I hope it is found and returned to it’s spot! I like Virginia Jaffe’s thought of cementing them in place, that way nobody could mess with them in such a thoughtless way!

  11. Walking the dogs going to look for it now. Really, I can’t have gone too far?!

  12. PS sorry I meant the bench couldn’t have…

  13. Frannie Southworth

    Dearest Laurie -I know how much that bench means to you. You described the deep meaning of the memorial benches so beautifully so that others can understand how important they are to families and also friends who are close to the person who passed. I adored Martin and every time I go down to the beach, I walk by his bench, Think of him with love, and notice the stones continually placed on it by the kids, JD and you in honor of him. I’m hoping it shows up. If it doesn’t, unfortunately I can’t imagine that anyone in our town would take it so it would probably be gone. It would be wonderful if parks and rec could replace it in the same beautiful spot that you designated it when you originally purchased it. As someone in a previous comment mentioned, where they came from, the benches were cemented in, and unfortunately we may have to do that here. Hoping it turns up and of course when I’m down at the beach I will be looking for it as well. 💜

  14. Laurie, so sorry to read about this. Was this the first time you had visited the bench since winter started? If so, is it possible some kind of winter storm/high tide resulted in it being pushed into the water—and, if that happened, did Parks & Rec search the water nearby? I hope you have a successful ending here as you did before.

  15. Laurie Crouse

    Thank you all for your compassionate and kind comments. It feels wonderful to be supported by my hometown and the community I hold so dear.
    I was there last week and even have a photo from last Wednesday March 3rd. I am pretty sure I was down there again after that, so it has only been a few days between when I last saw it and when it went missing.

  16. Pegeen Gaherin

    Laurie I am so sorry for your husband’s memorial bench having gone missing.
    How heartbreaking!

    I do not think I ever met your husband… he was so handsome and so young.

    Godspeed in finding his bench and having it returned to its rightful place.
    Pegeen Gaherin
    Staples 72

  17. Judith Marks-White

    Dear Laurie
    I am so saddened reading this. I loved perusing all the photos, and your lovely bench inscription is touching.. I hope for its safe return soon

  18. Howard Matson

    Laurie: thinking of you and of course will be on the lookout.

  19. You can be sure the memory of your husband is alive.
    An outpouring of love from so many people is heartening.
    Loving support, there are many who care and will search in hope.

  20. Audrey Doniger

    Oh Laurie sad for you…thinking of you

  21. Sandra Calise Cenatiempo

    Oh Laurie, I am so sorry to hear this. What a heartwarming story and I LOVE “Meet you at the sunset” ! So very special! There are many memorial benches sprinkled around Compo and we often don’t get to know the story behind the bench. I hope it’s recovered soon! #letsfindthebench

  22. Hi Laurie, for whatever it’s worth, it was there the last week in Feb. We sat on it and my grandson took all the rocks off.

    • Laurie Crouse

      So much gratitude and heartfelt thank you to all plus a huge thank you to Dan!
      I so appreciate the outreach on 06880, on FB. I’m very touched by the calls and texts from so many who have reached out .
      Thank you all for keeping an eye open. Praying it turns up.
      Cathy I have a photo of the bench on March 3. I was down there again after that so it was only a few days after that it went missing.

  23. Sandy Lefkowitz

    Laurie- My bench was not a Memorial but rather a celebration of a birthday and I was devastated when it went missing.
    To give you hope it was months and it was found by Parks and Rec. The problem was that the plaque and bench had separated and they finally found the plaque in the Maintenance Office.They quickly replaced the new bench.
    It is equally heart breaking to think that someone from our community would be so callous as to take it as a prank.

  24. Elayne Landau

    Laurie – I’m so sad the bench has gone missing and yet so glad to have heard its wonderful and heartwarming story. I will search for this bench on my bike ride tomorrow and turn down every street. This is crazy… it must be found and returned!

  25. Rebecca Mace

    My heart breaks for you. Is there a way we can make a fundraiser to replace the bench? I’m sure the community would support it. I know it wouldn’t be the same, but maybe it could offer some solace. Any interest?

  26. Laurie Crouse

    Rebecca thank you ! My heart is so full with the outpouring of support
    A few people have also offered to contribute. Please stay tuned as it unfolds.

  27. Laurie Crouse

    I also want to thank everyone who commented that I didn’t respond to individually. I don’t want to take the space up here 🌹

  28. Caryl Beatus


  29. Laurie,
    I am so sorry to hear this. I never knew that bench was a memorial to your husband. It stood out because it was in such a great spot. I will say I run the inner Compo loop every day of the week, and I noticed that bench missing for about over a week. We had some extremely high tides this winter, don’t know if that had anything to do with it. Hope it is found swiftly. And I hope you are well.
    Best, Rob

    • Laurie Crouse

      Cathy I remember your mom. I understand the pain you experienced when you could not find the bench and the frustration after.
      Unfortunately we now have a larger issue at hand which Parks and Rec is not even aware of. They are closed today but will be in touch with them Monday.More benches are missing from the area where Martin’s bench was.
      I am going to write to Dan to tell I’m about these developments and see if he can run a follow up…

      Hi Rob-thanks for your comments. This is not from a weather event in the past week. Please keep your eyes open as you do your run.

      Once again thank you to all for your kindness and support.

      • Cathy Malkin

        Thank you, Laurie for your kind words about my Mother’s missing memorial bench. I’m curious, how did you know her?

        While I”m happy your bench and others were recovered, I’m still waiting for Parks and Rec to explain what happened to my mother’s bench.

        I’d appreciate you letting me know what you find out from Parks and Rec.

        With gratitude, Cathy

  30. Cathy Malkin

    Your post is synchronistic as it turns out my mother’s bench is also missing from Compo. I now wonder how many memorial benches have gone “missing” over the years.

    I recently moved back to Westport. When I went to Compo Beach to sit with my Mother’s memory on her memorial bench, I discovered it was no longer there. I looked at every bench at Compo Beach, but I couldn’t locate it.

    My Mother, Lise Connell, lived in Westport for 40 years. She was the Westport community’s backbone for over 20 years as the Editor of the Westport News and then as Founding Editor of the Minuteman Newspaper. She loved Westport, and she loved taking her children and dog, Beuli, to Compo Beach.

    In 1997, a memorial bench was dedicated to Lise after her sudden death in 1996 . It was placed in front of Compo Beach’s playground to honor her memory and service work to Westport.

    When I reached out to Parks and Rec to find out where her bench was, I received the following reply:
    “Thank you for reaching out to me regarding your Mother’s bench at Compo Beach. Unfortunately, the bench donation records only go back to 2000. I looked through them anyway but could not locate your Mom’s name or the bench. I’m sorry that you couldn’t locate the bench at Compo Beach, there is a possibility it may have been destroyed in one of the major storms we’ve had over the years, or it may simply deteriorated over time.”

    I’m horrified that Westport doesn’t keep track of and maintain people’s memorials. There is no justification for this as it’s incredibly disrespectful and hurtful to my Mother’s memory, my family, and the people who donated money for her bench.

    If it was destroyed, why didn’t Westport replace it or let my family know?
    What happens to the money Westport takes for memorials that they don’t maintain?
    Why do the records only date to 2000?
    Do memorial benches in Westport have expiration dates?

    I’m waiting to hear from Parks and Rec to find out what, if anything, they will do to make this right for my family. It’s been several days, and so far, I haven’t heard anything.

    If Lise were alive today, she’d dub this important story “Bench Gate.” As Editor, she would find out what’s going on with the benches and make sure Westport did the right thing by replacing the memorial benches they have lost over the years.

    At the very least, Parks and Rec owe my family and other families an explanation and apology. My hope is they will replace Lise’s bench.

  31. Edward C Saenz

    It is horrendous for anyone to steel a personalized memorial such as a beach bench. I have sat on several of them over the many msny years I have lived on Westport here as have my wife. Children and now my grandson. The town should replace them. I see nothing wrong for our taxes to pay for these benches. However they need to be placed in a totally unmovable setting.