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Family's 'survivor bench' withstands trial by water

TNS Regional News • Jul 21, 2015 at 3:12 PM

For the Henline family, a handmade wooden bench in the backyard of their Rossford home held special meaning.

Josh Henline of Rossford made the bench for his wife, Andrea, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, 2014. Ms. Henline, who has one more surgery in August, said, “The thought and the love that went behind it could get us through what we need to get through.”

It was a handmade Christmas gift that was “our place to sit and just reflect on the little things in life,” she said. They call it their “survivor bench.”

So when torrential rain during the last weekend in June began to swell Grassy Creek behind their home on Creek Bend Court, the Henlines hoped the 200-pound bench would remain safe.

“It took two people to move it. I had no idea that the flood was going to move it,” he said.

But as the creek overflowed its banks and filled the yard, it submerged the bench. When the water receded, the bench was gone. Mr. Henline said he thought it could be at the bottom of the creek, but after he waited a few days for the water levels to go down, he found out it wasn’t there either.

Ms. Henline posted about the missing bench on Facebook, and the message made its way to the Rossford Police Department page, where users posted kind thoughts and shared it 800 times.

On Monday evening, Mr. Henline searched with two neighbors for 45 minutes along Grassy Creek. In a stroke of luck, they spotted the bench “probably 10 to 12 feet up in the trees,” Ms. Henline said.

“I figured it was going to get smashed, and here it was, actually in good shape,” Mr. Henline said.

He started the project in his backyard and said it took “a little over 40 hours of work” throughout November and December to make. Working in the cold, sometimes in nearly zero degree temperatures, he kept it under wraps.

“I had no idea he was doing it. He kept saying, ‘I have to go outside, there are some things I have to get done,’ ” Ms. Henline said. “It was his way of dealing with the cancer and having something special for him to give me.”

Ms. Henline admired the “rustic-style benches” at Lievens Market in Perrysburg, her husband said. After her diagnosis, he thought, “I can do that,” and went into the woods behind his house to start putting branches together.

Ms. Henline called her husband a “very outdoorsy man,” and said that he works on other projects, such as restoring old vehicles, when he’s not working as an engineer with General Motors Powertrain in Toledo. But he added that this was his first time “making something with no plans, no directions; making something out of nothing, out of a bunch of twigs.”

Now that it’s in their backyard again, the Henlines can use it again for what she calls their “time away from the real world.”

She and her husband enjoy observing nature in their backyard, including deer, raccoons, foxes, and other wildlife, and seeing their children Robbie, 4, and Faith, 1, play.

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By Kendrick Mcdonald - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (TNS)

©2015 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

Visit The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) at www.toledoblade.com

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