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Bench helps family, friends remember and relax

5/23/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Hays resident Dorothy Stieben is celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary Saturday by attending the wedding of her best friend's daughter in Oklahoma.

Then, she plans to do some sitting, thinking and remembering the good times.

Stieben's husband, LaVerne, died in November 2012 after a month-long ordeal after he suffered a heart attack in late October while vacationing in Cancun.

Saturday would have been the couple's 40th wedding anniversary, so Dorothy Stieben said her friend's daughter's wedding will be special.

The Hays Optimists, of which LaVerne Stieben was a longtime member, had an iron bench made in his honor last summer and placed it in the Howard Reynolds Nature Trail near Sternberg Museum of Natural History in northeast Hays.

Dorothy Stieben takes her grandsons for donuts and "some Grandma time" every other Saturday. With another emotional milestone behind her after Saturday, Stieben said she now will start frequenting her husband's bench.

"We go to the cemetery and clean Grandpa's tombstone," Stieben said. "We need to start making going to the bench one of our traditions. I've gone some, but I need to head out there more."

With another emotional holiday behind her, Stieben said it's time to take another step forward.

"All the firsts are hard," Stieben said of the events during the first year following the death of a family member or close friend. "I'm never going to get over it, but you work through it."

Stieben gave some of her husband's memorial money to the Optimist Club, which in turn had the bench made for the nature trail in his memory.

LaVerne Stieben was involved throughout town with numerous activities centering on youngsters, including youth hunting. And his widow thinks getting their grandsons out in nature -- see firsthand what he represented while taking a rest on the bench that bears his name -- would be an appropriate tribute.

"It'll be good for them to get out there, start a new tradition -- and for me," she said.