"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

A Welcoming Presence

By S. Georgia Kitt

The Dream Team: Liz Maxwell with her nephews Dan, Greg and Mike Bruening.

Over their 20 years of living in Bayley Village, Bob and Liz Maxwell found Bender Woods (often referred to as Sisters’ Hill) a sacred place of wonder. Liz shared, “Bob is the one who first discovered this special site. He had an exploring spirit and after finding it, this place of wonder was where he was most at home.” Liz’s nephews and families who occasionally joined them on the trails were well aware of this intimate tie to the Bender Woods; all decided that a tribute to Bob should be located there, following his death in December 2016. Liz had seen another’s memorial bench some years back and the image had remained with her.

It took five hours of labor to carry the bench materials to the chosen site and assemble them.

The family group began making plans for a bench last fall; discovering an ideal space in the woods that overlooked the Ohio River where people could meet on the trail and sit a spell was essential. In November they found an opening with the river in clear view, and after various renditions of the plans, the assembly of Bob’s Memorial Bench became a reality on May 21, 2022. The goal throughout was to create a spot for folks to rest while surrounded by nature. Liz and Bob often remarked that the availability and proximity of the woods to their home was “more than we could have ever asked of God.”

Nephews Dan, Greg and Mike Bruening, all sons of Liz’s brother Frank, along with Liz, met frequently over the months to hone their plans. Dan, from Columbus, Ohio, became the CEO of the project with Greg, from Tipp City, Ohio, serving as chief engineer. Greg’s wife, Colleen, provided the photography skills. Mike from Galena, Ohio, held the title of logistics manager. Frequent communications and updates occurred among the group members to adjust plans as needed. Materials were ordered and delivered to Liz’s garage; May 21 became the chosen date for the assembly. It took five hours of labor to carry the materials to the chosen site and assemble them there. Once cemented in place the bench clearly spoke to the group’s intent. It honors Bob, a natural climber, and his exploring spirit. It is a place he first discovered. Bob’s native hills of Kentucky in clear view from the bench. It honors God’s creation and human’s appreciation of it.

The broader Bruening family had a dedication of Bob’s Memorial Bench and the trail at the end of June with Liz’s late brother Eddie’s sons John, wife Laura, Joe, wife Elaine, joining Liz and Bayley Village friends for prayer and blessing the site with Holy Water. Liz and the group are indebted to Western Wildlife Corridor President Jeff Ginter and his daughter Josie, who helped in advance to eliminate the presence of invasive honeysuckle in places where a million dollar contemporary view offered promise. It took many hands!

For Liz the bench invites a spot to rest. “We believe that the woods have a ‘whole-making,’ healing capacity; we have enjoyed so many people we have met on these trails,” Liz commented. These woods offer Liz a felt presence that is ongoing. “It is pervasive – being with great trees, the quiet, realizing all is interconnected and God’s presence is found here – if we take the time.” Bob firmly believed that God led them to Bayley and Bender Woods to spend their final years. Being here brings Liz a strong sense of gratitude. “How could we be so blessed?”

Liz Maxwell’s three nephews helped to design and construct the bench built in memory of her husband, Bob.

The view from the location of Bob Maxwell’s memorial bench includes the Ohio River and overlooks his native Kentucky.

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