How often have you stopped to rest on a thoughtfully located bench, without giving much thought about who put your seating there or why?
Various benches around the county honor specific people, causes or nonprofits. Some serve as memorials to those who have died, such as the ocean-view bench on Cambria’s Moonstone Beach Drive, seating that’s dedicated to the late Cal Poly journalism professor and beloved mentor Jim Hayes.
Other benches simply honor the view or give tired walkers and sightseers a place to rest and absorb the beauty that surrounds them on California’s Central Coast.
The often-unique benches are made of diverse materials in a wide variety of styles — beautifully carved wood, assembled driftwood, metal, concrete, logs — if you can sit on it, chances are good that some creative soul has made a bench out of it.
For instance, hospitable Cambria has many benches — in parks, on a vacant lot here or a little community garden over there. Some are simply provided out in front of businesses or people’s homes.
According to Jo Ellen Butler, executive director of Cambria’s Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, “there are 18 benches on the ranch,” with nine being memorial benches. “Seven are not memorial,” she said, however, “all but three are in honor of someone or some group of people.”
One ranch bench wasn’t installed as a memorial, Butler said, but the donors subsequently died, so it’s become a de facto memorial to them.
Now, there’s a new bench in town. The decorative seating in Cambria’s East Village honors the late record-setting athlete David Yudovin of Cambrian.
The bas relief carving on the mahogany bench’s back reveals three powerful swimmers swimming — two dolphins flanking David as he strokes through the water one more time.
The design captures the energy of the swim and the bond between the three mammals in the sea.
It’s a place of rest memorializing a perpetual-motion, internationally lauded open-water swimmer and all-around good guy.
After all, David spent a good portion of his life in the water, often swimming alongside dolphins and other marine creatures. He was the first to swim across more than three dozen open-water channels around the world. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an honor open-water swimmer, commemorating his nearly four decades in the sport.
But David also knew how to chill … relaxing on the Yudovins’ sailboat … or sitting in their ocean-view Cambria home, guitar in hand, salmon on the barbie and beloved wife Beth Yudovin by his side.
He’d also take time to relax post-swim, albeit briefly, during the couple’s frequent visits to far-flung foreign lands. He’d immerse himself in the culture, soaking up the similarities and differences in the locations, customs and the people.
Hence the bench.
David would have loved his bench with the same passion he loved life, his wife, flamenco and jazz, good conversations, top-quality fish, seafood and sushi, and, most of all, helping people and many causes, such as the North Coast Ocean Rescue Team, Cambria’s new library building, City of Hope’s cancer research, leukemia research and more.
Most of all, he helped other swimmers, one on one, in groups and through his mentorship with organizations like the Hall of Fame.
Honors, yes. But a bench?
A year ago, Beth was inspired by Jay Burbank’s dolphin bench on Fiscalini Ranch. “I could see David in there, swimming with the dolphins,” she said.
Over the next year, David’s bench went from dream to reality, combining the talents of artist Phil Hauser, woodworking genius David Plumb, site-locator Beautify Cambria, property owner Peter Nelson of San Luis Obispo and adjacent business owners Oz Barron and Kris Gregson of Ball & Skein & More.
“This bench fits in with the tapestry of the town David loved so much,” Beth said at the July 26 dedication with tears in her eyes.
As Allan Desmond said after the ceremony, “this is a place of love now,” because it captures the love David had for the sea, swimming, his wife, friends and family, his community and his causes, and the love given to him by his hometown and home county, the state, country and the world.
“Some people who sit here will fall in love,” Desmond said of the bench. “I’m sure of it.”