Three benches have been built in memory of Loren Donn Leslie and her selfless compassion for others.
On Tuesday, Nov. 27, two years after her death, three handmade benches were unveiled inside schools that Loren attended as a youth: Nechako Valley Secondary School, McLeod Elementary and Fraser Lake Elementary Secondary.
By many accounts, Loren was a caring, non-judgmental person who spoke out against bullying and helped others overcome severe depression, preventing at least two people from committing suicide, said her father, Doug Leslie.
“I wanted a place for kids to have where they could feel safe, where they knew that they’re not going to be made fun of, poked at, or bullied,” Doug said about the purpose of the benches.
Doug remembers only fragments of his statements during the whirlwind of media inquiries that followed Loren’s death, but recalls saying that he wanted to keep Loren’s legacy of helping others alive.
“We’re trying to carry that on,” he said.
Henry Klassen, an area wood worker, donated the lumber to build the benches.
As he sometimes does with certain stands of trees that he logs for building homes, Klassen set the lumber aside for a special project after noticing its unique characteristics of knots and grains.
“When we have an opportunity to do something for groups like this,” said Klassen, “we try and help it along and make it all work.”
Built into the back of the bench is a metal plaque inscribed with a poem that Loren discovered in a library archive in Portland, Oregon, at age 13. Doug found the poem in Loren’s journal after she died.
“We’ve adopted that now for everything to do with Loren,” said Doug.
The benches at NVSS and McLeod Elementary took about 70 hours to make, said Rock Allred, the woodworking instructor at NVSS who built them by hand.
For close to a year, Allred took his time to build and assemble the benches.
“It was a lot harder then I thought it would be,” he said.
“I just really feel for Doug and his family. I was glad to do it for them.”
After meeting with students and faculty during a brief ceremony in the foyer at NVSS, Doug presented a second bench to McLeod Elementary across the street.
Dozens of students and a handful of teachers attended the ceremony in the library, where the bench was placed. It was a solemn moment and at least one student began to cry.
“Whether they are just sitting and thinking, here students have a safe place to be and know they’re safe,” Doug said about the benches.
“I hope they will be treated with dignity, compassion and respect.”