Children Gift Mother Memorial Bench Where Their Family Got Started

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There’s a new bench in Wildwood Park in Walla Walla, Washington that has special meaning for one local family. If you look closely and read the plaque on the back of the bench, you’ll see that it commemorates an important event in that family’s history that happened over 75 years ago.

On Thanksgiving Day, Shirley Fouts, 92, received an early Christmas present from her four children. Son John and daughters Marilee, Shauna, and Gail, all adults, dedicated a new bench in the park where their father, Bill, asked Shirley to go steady in 1941.

Andy Coleman of the Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Department helped commission the new bench on behalf of the four children who wanted to give their mother a special gift and make their family’s history a permanent part of the town.

The new bench is in the same spot as the movable bench where Bill and Shirley sat when they first committed themselves to one another. The bench gives anyone sitting on it a wonderful view of Wildwood Park, so it’s sure to become a popular spot among visitors.

“Every time we would go by (that area of the park), mom would tell the story of dad asking her to go steady. She says she even remembers the kiss,” John says, explaining why he and his siblings decided to dedicate a bench to their mother.

The plaque on the bench reads: “At this location in 1941 Bill Fouts asked Shirley Barclay to go steady. Married October 29, 1943.”

Sadly, Bill died in 1966 at age 42, leaving Shirley to raise the four kids on her own. At the time, John was in college, Marilee in high school, Shauna in elementary school, and Gail not quite two years old.

Shirley graduated from the local community college and then supported the family by working at the Walla Walla School District. “By herself, she paid off the house that dad and she had built in 1955,” John explains.

Now, 50 years after their father passed, the four children gave their mother a bench at the exact spot where everything began. “It really surprised her,” John said. “Her comment was, ‘here is where our family began.'”