MANCHESTER — One of seven new "longevity" benches that will be installed around town later this year will be in honor of Adele Ervin, a fixture in Manchester politics.
Ervin, who died last year at age 93, was a regular presence at Town Meeting over the years, served on the Finance Committee, and was active in other civic and cultural affairs on Cape Ann.
The new bench in her name will be installed on Ocean Street sometime this summer, right by Black Beach. Money for its purchase was raised by Manchester resident Doug Hotchkiss. More than 36 donors contributed to its cost.
"Adele was a dear friend to me, my wife and many others," Hotchkiss said. "She was the first person we met when we moved to Manchester in 1976. We formed a close bond and stayed in touch with her over the years."
The bench will be placed on land she once owned, which had a small fisherman's shack. Later in life, Ervin donated the property to the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust. The town's Conservation Commission approved the bench's installation.
"She loved the marsh (nearby) and she loved the shack," recalled Hotchkiss. "She would invite us down there for barbecues and such."
The intent of these longevity benches — spearheaded by the nonprofit Longevity Bench Project — is to create spots around town for walkers to catch a breath, or perhaps get some stretching in, mid-stroll.
The black aluminum benches can help make the town's well-used walking routes more manageable and more accessible for all, regardless of fitness ability, and specifically with an eye toward elderly residents, those with physical disabilities, and folks recovering from an injury or surgery, says Lisa Bonneville, founder and president of the Longevity Bench Project.
Outside of downtown, there are no public benches, save for four the group has installed since last year. Bonneville says three benches are expected to be installed by the end of this summer and four more by late September.
The Longevity Bench Project's goal is to have 30 of its benches installed, one for every half-mile along the town's popular walking loops.
One of the benches to be installed this summer came as a surprise for Bonneville. Her niece, Amy Wilson, who lives in Chicago, collected donations from more than 40 family, friends and colleagues to purchase Bonneville her own bench to mark her 70th birthday.
“I was overwhelmed," said Bonneville, about her gift. "I can't even explain in words. To have your friends and your family to support something you have put so much passion into was so meaningful to me.”
The bench will be placed in front of the home she shares with her husband, George, on Woodholm Road. The first longevity bench in town was installed last year in front of Bonneville's studio on Summer Street.
Benjamin and Michelle Langille of Manchester have also chipped in for a bench on their property on Bridge Street. Their bench will feature the lyrics to "If I Should Fall Behind," by Bruce Springsteen: "If as we're walking a hand should slip free, I'll wait for you. And should I fall behind, wait for me." The couple danced to the song at their wedding.
The remaining four benches will be installed at Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Hinckley Veterans Park and two around the perimeter of Powder House Hill. The installations were approved by selectmen last month as each will be installed on public land. The Winthrop Field longevity bench, which was previously expected to be installed this season, has been delayed indefinitely, according to Bonneville.
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or email@example.com.