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St. Helenans donate benches in memory of their fathers

St. Helenans donate benches in memory of their fathers

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St. Helena pedestrians can enjoy a pair of benches dedicated to the memory of two special men.

Pam Smithers had a bench installed at Baldwin Park in honor of her father, Walt Fuller. When he retired from a career in public education he sold his car and started walking or riding the bus.

As he got older, he started wishing there were a few benches where he could stop and rest when he was carrying his groceries home.

“He told me that it would have been nice to have had a bench, not just for resting but also to just watch the world go by,” Smithers said. “When you are older and live alone, being out in public is helpful for social interactions. Sitting on a park bench, you can sometimes engage in conversations with passersby. He would probably be happy to know that ‘his’ bench would allow other older people the opportunity to walk to town and to engage in the world outside of their homes.”

Anna Beard, Mariam Hansen and Stepan Hovanesian had a bench installed at Pope Street and Chiles Avenue in honor of her father, Rudy Hovanesian, who was born in Armenia in 1914.

At the age of 4, his father was killed when Kurds raided their village. During World War II, he was drafted into the Russian Army, captured by the Germans and forced to fight the Russians, and ended the war in a British POW camp in northern Germany. After his release, he met a German woman, Inge, who was to become his wife.

The couple immigrated to the U.S., where Hovanesian worked in construction and at Charles Krug Winery. He joined the St. Helena Public Works Department in 1958, where he worked with concrete, masonry, plumbing and park maintenance.

“Meanwhile he bought the Ray Corbella property on Silverado Trail at Zinfandel, which was a former slaughterhouse,” Hansen said. “Inge was horrified when she first saw it, but little by little it was remodeled into a home and farm with cows, pigs, chickens and a large garden.”

After retiring, Rudy and Inge enjoyed traveling back to Germany and to Hawaii. Rudy died in 1988.

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