A hand-carved bench dedicated to the memory of Penticton’s first city council watchdog has been moved out of public view and into permanent storage.
Muriel Franck, who died in December 2015, was honoured in April 2017 with the unveiling of a bench made from a silver maple tree that had to be removed from Gyro Park due to its poor health.
However, the bench, which was installed in a grassy area between City Hall and Gyro Park, didn’t hold up to the elements and was removed in June 2018.
City staff at the time said it was going to be placed in the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, where it would have been sheltered from the weather, but instead it was placed in storage at city yards.
“The Muriel Franck bench was made from a green/undried log and through the weathering process, the bench cracked and became unsuitable for public display,” parks supervisor Todd Whyte said in an email.
“There were large cracks in the bench and it is beyond repair.”
A memorial plaque recognizing Franck remains at the site, and a replacement bench, which resembles a log but is made of artificial materials, was installed after the original was removed.
“We contacted Muriel’s family and discussed with them the change of tribute and they were in support of changing the tribute to a more sustainable piece,” added Whyte.
The original bench was funded by donations from the community in honour of Franck, who was as well known for her eccentricities as she was for her devotion to holding public officials to account.
Little is known about Franck’s personal life, but she’s believed to have moved to Penticton in the 1950s. She never married, rode her bike everywhere, and swam in Okanagan Lake every day – even when it meant chopping a hole in the ice to do so.
Franck also had a near-perfect attendance record at decades’ worth of council meetings, where she’d question politicians about business of the day and how their positions on issues had changed over time.
Prior to her death, Franck’s name had last appeared in The Herald in 2004 in a news story that quoted her sounding off about the process then-councillors were using to gain public assent to borrow $1.6 million for capital projects.
As her health declined, Franck moved to the Haven Hill Retirement Centre, where she lived out her final years. There are conflicting reports about her age. Some suggest she was just days away from turning 98, while others claim she had already reached that milestone.