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Wiens family donates bench to MES library

Staff writer

Gerald Wiens doesn’t remember whether his shop class at Marion High School was the first time he worked with wood, but he knows he’s been doing so ever since. That was before he graduated in 1969.

In all those years, he had never built a bench.

His mother, Mary Ann Wiens, was a devoted educator. She opened a preschool in her home, and after retiring spent her years volunteering at the elementary school.

“There wasn’t a day you didn’t see her in the hallway listening to children read,” Elementary School Librarian Lori Kirkpatrick said. “She touched a lot of children’s lives.”

So when she died in September, the family — including her son, Gerald Wiens, and six daughters, Joni Crofoot, Janice Hodson, Loreen Hett, Diann Cline, Denise Hett, and Lorraine McGahee — decided to donate part of the memorial funds to Marion Elementary School library.

Initially the fund was intended for buying books, but Kirkpatrick had another request — the children needed a bench.

“It’s something substantial,” she said. “It’s not consumable, it’ll be used for many years.”

Gerald Wiens returned to the high school shop classroom, which had since moved from the basement of the Hill Building where his shop class with Vernon Moore took place, for a new project.

He had the help of his grandson, MHS freshman Jack Schneider, and was able to purchase materials, including the solid oak needed to make the bench, from shop teacher Lucas King.

“It was a special project,” Gerald Wiens said. “When you do it for your mom’s memorial, it becomes a little different. Kind of a special thing.”

He got to work in mid-December, spending the final two days before winter break in the shop. By the time he finished the bench, he said more than 40 hours of labor had gone into it.

His average project, he said, “takes about half that time.”

On the bottom of the bench, underneath two of the middle slats, Gerald Wiens had 48 family members who were in town over the holidays sign the bench.

“Since I built the bench, it probably meant a little more to the family,” he said.

He was paid for the cost of materials and, he said, about a third of his labor. He doesn’t mind, he said, because now the library has some money left over to buy books and other materials.

“It’s a great feeling. Lori was so excited, we walked in last Friday to take some pictures, and there were kids sitting on the bench when we walked in,” he said.

Kirkpatrick said the bench has gotten rave reviews from the students.

“The kids absolutely love it,” Kirkpatrick said. “Children tell me all the time, ‘Mrs. Kirkpatrick, you got a beautiful bench!’ ‘Mrs. K, where did the bench come from?’”

Kirkpatrick loves the bench herself, and knows exactly where the bench came from.

“It’s a very wonderful, generous gift in the memory of a very wonderful, generous woman,” she said.

Last modified Feb. 5, 2015

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