George Story – long time City of San Diego employee and U-T reporter – had his Ocean Beach memorial bench stolen also

by on July 18, 2011 · 12 comments

in Life Events, Ocean Beach, Popular

Judith Story sitting on her husband George's memorial bench, before it was stolen from the end of Del Mar Avenue.

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.

Blow up of photo taken by neighbor of crane and truck removing one of the benches. Here, the bench is on the flatbed of the truck.

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.

End of Del Mar Avenue in Ocean Beach, showing the location of the two memorial benches before being taken on July 8, 2011.

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.

The George Story bench on the left, the Cappelluchi bench on the right, closer to the cliff.s.

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 or call police at (619) 531-2000.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Dude July 19, 2011 at 9:11 am

Cannot WAIT to hear who robbed these benches!


Alissa July 19, 2011 at 9:22 am

I’ve walked by here a lot of the years… more recently I’ve seen cops waking people up to kick them out of the area… watch out for those dangerous people SLEEPING… anyway, I bet it had something to do with that. Obviously someone was bothered enough to schedule and pay for a crane and flatbed,which is just freaking weird. I can’t wait to to find more out about this too – thanks for the update!


Allen Lewis July 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Not that it matters much, but I’m thinken they used a flat bed truck with a crane arm that folds up behind the cab.


Allen Lewis July 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm

If people look around town you may find one, there purity common with construction Co.


Allen Lewis July 19, 2011 at 12:27 pm

WOW I missed the pic, that’s what it is a crane truck.


Sunshine July 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm

could the owner of the crane be charged with the crime? how many crane companies can there be in town? i’m not a detective, yet even i would go door to door and check inventory/rental/sales records.


Frank Gormlie July 19, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Other than going door -to -door and asking neighbors if they knew anything, saw anything, police investigators cannot actually demand to be let inside and check anything without permission by the neighbors. Not without a warrant. Hopefully, the police have already gone door-to-door.

Unfortunately, the photo of the crane truck was at an angle that the license plate could not be seen.

Yet, someone must have seen something. That was early enough where people would be getting up and going to work/ school.

I would say the community demands a thorough and immediate investigation into this matter. The culprit(s) must be found. This is more than “interesting” – this was theft of public and community property.


OB Mercy July 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Again, I do NOT understand why the person cared enough to take the photo, and was obviously suspicious enough to take the photo….yet didn’t walk down a few feet to take a pic of the license plate and most likely the truck had a name on the doors??

A truck and crane like that would also make a lot of noise, no way did ALL the neighbors not hear a thing…maybe most of the neighbors in that vicinity did not like the benches there (homeless sleeping on them?) and have clammed up about it all?


tj July 20, 2011 at 7:43 am

This tribute bench was certainly far more tasteful & less obnoxious then the other discussed here.

It could even be a model of such tributes, if the concrete mass & style, itself, is acceptable. Personally, more natural materials & lower key approach would be preferable.

Still, unless they’re the only way the city can afford public benches – personal tributes, benches or otherwise, don’t belong on public property.

That’s my opinion – like it, or lump it.


bench free street ends July 22, 2011 at 10:15 am

Thought those were illegal benches after all?
They are beautiful and it is nice for the families of have a personal memorials and it is a lovely spot … all this is true.
But we don’t know if that is even a City Park. Think it is actually just a Street End.
Too bad the benches were covered with graffiti and surrounded by dog feces and garbage left by those who use it as their personal rec area.
The City never came to clean up the mess…no trashcans- no nothing


Frank Gormlie July 22, 2011 at 10:35 am

As far as I could see, the benches were NOT covered with graffiti – where did you get that?


Frank Flanagan July 26, 2011 at 6:24 am

These benches were stolen by an old nasty rich guy who did not like the public ruining his view, so he took the law into his own hands. Isn’t this what the rich do so well? No-he will not be charged for this nasty little crime; he is old, and rich, and the middle class lives in fear and mediocrity in San Diego. No-the rich criminal’s name will not be published because American is a land divided by class, and controlled by the few. This crime against the common good will not be publicized, or prosecuted; there will be no justice in San Diego because a nasty old rich man committed the crime. Now, if he had been Latino…


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