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Orleans company to replace vandalized Jex bench in Lockport

LOCKPORT – The owner of Orleans Monument Co. says she will provide a duplicate of the vandalized granite bench memorializing a Lockport man killed in the Iraq War.

“Granite is very hard to repair. You can always see the repair,” Elaine Farchione said. “Being that he was killed in the service, he deserves a new one, not a patched-up one.”

Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert called on anyone who may have information about who knocked over the Spc. Albert R. Jex bench to call the Police Department at 433-7700 or the confidential tip line, 439-6707.

Cathy MacFarlane, Jex’s mother, said that after learning of the damage, she and her husband, William, returned from a weekend away to mark their 20th wedding anniversary, which is Wednesday.

They visited a relative in Ohio and the Middle Eastern Conflicts Memorial in Joliet, Ill., and didn’t find out about the vandalism until she checked her Facebook page on her phone late Saturday night.

Lockport businessman David L. Ulrich paid for the original bench, which is now in pieces on the floor of a loading dock area at Orleans Monument. It was taken there over the weekend by the MacFarlanes’ neighbor, David J. Mongielo.

Farchione said the bench originally cost $2,100. She said the granite will have to be special-ordered and estimated the new bench would be ready in about eight weeks.

The bench, which is four feet wide, was placed on the edge of the Ulrich City Center parking lot, across Locust Street from Lockport’s main Metro Bus stop, after suggestions that a bridge, a street or a post office be named for Jex ran into what Cathy MacFarlane called “nothing but negativity.”

Ulrich has since sold the property.

Jex, 23, was among five people killed when a suicide bomber rammed his Humvee on Feb. 9, 2009. The other dead were three soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter.

Cathy MacFarlane credited Peter P. Robinson, Fire Board president and city Republican Party chairman, with buying a circle of American flags that marked where the bench was. At least one flower arrangement also had been placed there as of this morning.

Farchione suggested moving the Jex bench to Veterans Park on East Avenue across from Eastern Niagara Hospital, where stands the city’s main veterans monument, an obelisk built by local artist Raphael Beck in the 1920s.

“I’d definitely be in favor of that. That would be real nice,” said Kibler, who is acting mayor this week while Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey is on vacation.

William MacFarlane said another suggested location was the memorial area around the flagpole at Lockport High School, recently spruced up as a local teenager’s Eagle Scout project.

A reward and repair fund of about $400 had been raised on Facebook over the weekend. Cathy MacFarlane said any money left over from the donations should be added to the scholarship fund set up in her son’s name at the high school, which gives $100 each year to a graduating senior.

“There’s only a couple years left in that fund,” she said.

“This should never have happened,” said William MacFarlane, who served in the Navy from 1981-85. “It shows a total lack of respect for our fallen heroes.”

He hailed “the community coming together to right this wrong.”