'Recognition benches' hold hidden stories at Minnesota State Fair

- Next time you take a seat at the Minnesota State Fair, you may want to pay attention to see if your bench is a "recognition bench."  These benches recognize loved ones, both living and dead -- it is in these benches where you can sit, and still be moved.

Each bench has its own story. At a place where modesty is swallowed by lights, the state fair benches seem almost bashful in their practicality and short stories.

“I made a promise to Michael, I would never allow him to be forgotten,” Marcelino Puente said of his late son.

Five years ago, Puente’s son Michael took his own life -- “I couldn't have a picture up, I couldn't sleep through the night.”

Marcelino could hardly work for an entire year. But time helped, and so did the bench.

“Seeing people resting on the bench, laughing on the bench, talking, that's everything Mike ever did,” he said.

Michael was also obsessed with Mancini's garlic bread, always wanting that extra garlic toast. So when Marcelino decided to buy a bench, he put it right outside of Mancini's.

“It's the only place for it,” he said.

It was at that bench where Marcelino saw proof it could heal. The bench says: “Michael, even with Mancini’s garlic toast, the fair isn’t the same without you.”

The bench even has a Facebook page where people, sometimes strangers, post pictures with it. And that place for people to stop is moving one father forward.

“I can't explain the power from something so simple,” Marcelino said. “For anyone who's grieving a loss, what a step toward healing.  It sounds foolish, I can't explain it. It's just been a really good thing, a really fun thing for all of us.”

Facebook link: Michael's bench


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