Eganville – There was beauty and sadness as a bench was unveiled in Centennial Park to honour the memory of Paula (Pilatzke) Bashford and her son, Ellis, who were killed exactly a year before in an automobile accident.
A crowd gathered on the hill overlooking the bandstand to see the large timberframe bench unveiled and dedicated in honour of the well-known 33-year-old woman and her unborn infant son. The significance of the location overlooking the peaceful Bonnechere River and the music venue in the park, as well as the playground in the background was not lost on her family and friends. It is a beautiful spot high on the hill for a young woman whose life touched many in the community she was born into and later came back to, to build her new life with her husband and then prepare for the birth of her first child.
“As we look out over the bandstand where Paula once danced – she loved music, loved to dance and loved to sing -- with her hometown Bonnechere River in the background, we could not think of a more fitting spot to come, sit and remember her,” her husband Mike Bashford said at the dedication, speaking on behalf of the family. “Thank you, folks, for the beautiful and lasting gift of the bench.”
Mrs. Bashford grew up in the Eganville area and her family is closely associated with music in the Valley. Her parents, Wayne and Carla, also are known for their involvement in the local curling club and passed on that love to family as well. Her brothers, Nathan and Jon are known internationally for their stepdancing and fiddling excellence and she also played the piano and was known for her love of music. A juvenile diabetic, she had made it her mission to teach others about healthful eating and was known for her culinary skills, including her work at the Cottage Cup at Golden Lake. A large group at the dedication were wearing blue t-shirts in her honour as part of the involvement of the Cottage Cup.
Funding for the bench began in the raw days after her death and the death of her son as the community sought a way to pay tribute to her. Because of her close work with the Ottawa Valley Food Cooperative this became one of the lead organizations behind the bench since the family had asked for donations in her memory to go to the co-op.
Lynne Epps, who was the MC at the dedication, said there was a lot of support from various community grounds and individuals who made this project a reality. They are: Ottawa Valley Food Co-operative; the Eganville Curling Association; Heather Inwood-Montrose; Allison and John Collins; Judy and Cam Sauve; Connie Matthews-Cull and Andy Cull; Linda Sluiman and family; Diana Komejan and Ian Pineau; Heather Lambert, Shirley Douglas; Ron Phillips; Claire Lepine and Gerald Priestley; Amanda and Donaven Welk (the Cottage Cup); Wayne and Carla Pilatzke; Michael Bashford and Lynne and John Epps.
“She touched us and we want to share something in return,” Ms. Epps noted.
Mr. Bashford said the Pilatzke and Bashford families were deeply honoured to have the memorial in the park in the village in her hometown.
“Thank you to all who donated the clear pine planks, to those who gave of their talents and to the town for providing the perfect resting place for the bench,” he said.
As well, he made special mention of the woodworker, Beat Ulrich of Golden Lake who made the bench.
“This isn’t a bench – it’s a work of art lovingly and carefully pieced together by the craftsman that he is,” he said. “We hope you take the opportunity later to come and sit on this outstanding bench. And, in Chef Paula’s style, the lovely planter has been filled with all her favourite herbs. Please feel free to snip a branch to take home and use in your supper preparations.”
Mr. Bashford thanked Pastor Lloyd Reaney of the Whitewater Wesleyan Community Church for his help.
“You’ve been there for this family from that horrible day in the hospital, exactly one year ago, right up to this dedication,” he said. “Your calm and reassuring words brought comfort to our souls and we appreciate your message and prayers today. You will be forever in our hearts.”
Pastor Reaney gave a prayer for the dedication of the bench and Kathryn Roesler played several pieces on the flute.
“Kathryn, you have been part of our family celebrations and now a valued participant in this bitter-sweet day,” Mr. Bashford said, noting her music created the peaceful mood they needed at the dedication.
He also thanked the Welks of the Cottage Cup, describing them as Paula’s fellow kindred spirits, friends and employers. They provided coffee, juice and “cronuts” for the dedication.
“And to you all, who have come to share this special day with us, whose lives have been touched by Paula in some way, we thank you for your love and support this past year,” he said. “Our family is glad to see you and to finally get to visit with you.”
Ms. Bashford’s sister-in-law, Cara, read letters from her husband and his brother, both paying tribute to their little sister.
As the craftsman responsible for the design and completion of the bench, Mr. Ulrich shared a bit of the process. He said he was deeply honoured to be involved in the project.
“If you have to work in this world, to have it be meaningful is a gift,” he said.
The inscription on the bench is made from two donated silver coins as well as Paula’s wedding ring which was filed down for the engraving.
Following the dedication members of the Bonnechere Valley Fire Department, all dressed in uniform, gathered around the bench. Many had been involved the day of the crash responding to the scene on Highway 41 outside Eganville.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader