There has been much to do about the memorial benches stolen off the cliffs in Ocean Beach. And there should be – as their theft during broad daylight earlier this month is outrageous. The media has been all over the story of the missing memorial bench that the Cappellucci’s had for their son who passed away from cancer two years ago.
There was a second memorial bench stolen at the same time, and it belonged to the family of George Story. Both benches were reportedly taken sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. on July 8th, by a large crane and placed on a flatbed truck, as witnesses have said. One person even took a photo of the truck. The City has denied taking the benches, and the police are investigating.
I spoke to George Story’s son, John – who lives in OB – , earlier today. And he’s upset. John told me:
“Somebody removed those benches. Legal recourse needs to be used against the culprit. It pisses me off! We paid for that bench. Went through the proper channels – this was not a vigilante type action – …” his voice trailed off.
John Story is angry, yet it is a quiet anger, as he is not a guy who gets disturbed easily. But yet there it was. The bench he and his family had installed ten years ago for their dad was simply gone. Stolen.
When their father passed away in April of 2000, the Story family – mother Judith, and sisters, Mary and Roxanne, wanted to memorialize him. George – who loved the sea – had actually spoken with Judith about getting a bench near the ocean. George, it turns out, was relatively well-known around town.
George Story had made a name for himself. He had become first noticed as a reporter for the San Diego Union and Tribune. George had the City Hall beat and got to know many people as they passed through our local citadel of municipal government, from clerks to politicians.
He soon joined City Hall as an aide for the entire City Council. He worked for politicians like Henry Landt, Alan Hitch, and Frank Curran, remembers John. He worked for the city for 30 years, and was the ombudsman for the entire city, John told me. “He had his own department,” John said, “the Department of City Assistance and Information, and worked directly for the City Manager – Ray Blair was his boss for a long time.”
George and his wife Judith retired in the big island, Hawaii. And when he passed away, his ashes were scattered in the seas off Hawaii.
Back in OB, son John had seen other memorial benches around town, and liking the idea, he ran with it. He called the City – and it turns out, folks there remembered ol’ George. The City gave approval – through the Parks Department, and the bench was installed in the Spring of 2001 – almost a year to the day that George had died.
“I picked the site,” John told me, “at the end of Del Mar. It seemed like a good spot. When I’m there, I recall good things about my dad. It was kind of selfish – I was living right over on Del Monte at the time (just several blocks north) and I knew I would be over there a lot. It’s a great place to watch the sunset.”
John remembers his dad as an avid sports fan. “Because of my dad, I witnessed all kinds of major sports moments in San Diego’s history.”
John has lived in Ocean Beach since the late 1980’s. Born in San Diego, John and the Story family lived in Bay Ho at first. When John ended up here, he became active in the OB Greens who used to meet, he remembers, at the Green Store on Voltaire Street. Over the years, he’s been active once in awhile in grassroots issues in OB. Currently working at Comic-Con, John’s a union trade-show installer, installing for 15 years as a member of the International Painters and Allied Trades Union.
One day while visiting the bench, John noticed the other bench there – a little closer to the cliff edge, a beige color. “I was blown away,” he said. The second bench, the Cappellucci’s, was a different style, a different color. “The City required that we put our bench on a concrete slab, but I saw the new bench didn’t have one.” Of course, now there were two benches where passersby could watch the ocean and sunsets.
Had there ever been any complaints about the bench, I asked John? No, he quickly responded, only compliments. He’d be out at the bench and see familiar faces, and once they understood the bench was for his dad, they’d say, ‘that’s cool.’
“On Saturday morning, I had browsed the OB Rag. When I read about a bench being gone, a brown bench, at the end of Del Mar – I went whooooaa! And there was a picture of the other bench. I immediately got in my car, drove down there for a look. The only thing left was the slab.”
“I got on the phone right away and called mom; she was aghast. I knew it wasn’t the City. The City put them in – at least the City put in my father’s bench.”
John feels it’s great that a company has offered to replace the Cappellucci’s bench. “But,” he continued, “that’s not the main thing. The main thing is that the benches were stolen.”
John is pissed. His mother is upset. “It’s like a desecration at a cemetery,” John said to me. “It’s a bench, but it’s a public bench.” The culprit must be found.
If you do have information about this theft, contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call police at (619) 531-2000.
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- Police looking for witnesses to incident on Brighton Avenue on Sunday in OB.