Marshall Jones was a little surprised when some men knocked on his door Friday and said they were there to install a bench.
The bench that previously sat near the main entrance of Marcus Whitman Elementary is one of many vestiges that typically are discarded during a renovation project.
But Jones, 91, asked a year ago if he could have it.
He and his wife Charlotte, 93, routinely sat there, across the street from their central Richland home.
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“I said ‘I thought you forgot about me,’ ” Marshall recalled. “(A worker) said, ‘No, you’re on the list of things to do.’ ”
Those working on the school made sure to set it aside.
“I’ve always had it in the back of my mind,” said Craig Yeagley, superintendent of the Marcus Whitman project for Richland-based Fowler General Construction.
I said ‘I thought you forgot about me.’ (A worker) said ‘No, you’re on the list of things to do.’
Marshall Jones first came to Richland in 1949 while he enlisted with the Army. He liked the area, knew there were jobs and applied for a position on the Hanford site. He ended up working at Hanford for 44 years.
He and Charlotte married in 1956, and they moved a few years later into the prefabricated house at the corner of Hoffman Street and Snow Avenue.
The original Marcus Whitman was welcoming students at the time and was a little farther away, near the corner of Lee Boulevard and Winslow Avenue.
Their two oldest children, Jay and Janice, started in the original Marcus Whitman school. Then a new school was built closer to the Jones’ home in the ’70s and their children, including twins Maryann and Mark, attended classes there.
“The one bad thing about tearing down that first school was it had a great gymnasium,” Marshall said.
Their children grew up, but the couple stayed put. Marshall jacked up the house and had a basement built underneath. The sycamores planted around the yard have grown tall. And until several years ago, the school figured into their daily routine.
Every day they’d go for a walk and sit on the benches near the school.
Maryann Pitchman, daughter
“Every day they’d go for a walk and sit on the benches near the school,” said daughter Maryann Pitchman.
Those walks became shorter as the couple aged and as Charlotte Jones developed Alzheimer’s disease. Eventually, they’d just walk over to sit on the benches for a little while, but even that was enjoyable as they watched classes go between the main school building and the portable classrooms.
“You know kids, they’d smile and laugh at you,” Marshall said.
When workers began demolishing the old Marcus Whitman last spring, he approached a foreman about the fate of two of the benches. He received a promise that they would be set aside for him.
Yeagley said the request made its way to him, and he saw to it that the benches were saved, especially after learning of Charlotte Jones’ health struggles.
I just wanted to make sure we got that bench to her so she would have a safe zone.
Craig Yeagley, Fowler General Construction
“I just wanted to make sure we got that bench to her so she would have a safe zone,” he said, adding that Fowler saw the gesture as another way to connect with the community.
While one of the benches did go missing, a few workers promptly installed the remaining one in the couple’s front yard.
Marshall Jones said that he and his wife are still adapting to the new Marcus Whitman building.
It’s two stories tall, partly blocking the sunsets they used to see above the old building, and the heat pump can be noisy at night. But he’s eager for the first day of school this fall so he and his wife can see the building welcoming back students.
“It’s a nice view,” he said.