ParkTales Classic


Third bench on King Street West, Parkdale

Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition will reveal the heart and soul of one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about, and something to talk about. This column was original published in May 2010.

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective

Photo by Geoffrey Dow,

The third bench on King Sreett West in Parkdale, overlooking the          Gardiner Expressway and Lake Ontario, was home to a homeless man. He lived there for years, at night lying on the bench in his sleeping bag. He was always well groomed, clean, and wearing a shirt and tie.

I passed him many times on my morning walks to the Lake. He was fascinated with numbers and I always observed him doing some kind of figuring with them on old scraps of paper.

Neighbours said he had been an accountant.

I hadn't been to the Lake for a few weeks and one morning I thought it would be nice to go for breakfast by the water at the Sunnyside Café.

I put on old jogging clothes and bounced out the door and down toward the shore. As I approached the benches facing the Lake, I couldn't see the homeless man. Instead, I saw flowers. I thought, Oh-no, oh-No! Two men were walking their dogs. I said, "Those flowers. Don't tell me it means he died?"

Yes, they said, about three weeks ago. The police said he fell off the bench and cracked his head, but we think he was murdered. Oh, my God! I said.

Yes, they said. The police are sticking to the story that he fell while sleeping. But there was so much blood on the ground they had to call the fire department to clean it up. The local residents are sure he was murdered.

"Such a shame," said the men, "he never bothered anyone."

As I approached the bench there was his picture. And flowers. Lots of flowers. And candles. One still burning. Then there were poems, one too long for me to take time to copy but these two I did:

Image: Photo by Frances Segwick.
Photo by Frances Sedgwick.

Silent Flowers
on a Park Bench
Someone knew
this man's name
His history
sadness and joy
Someone knew
this man's passing
And left behind
flowers for his silence
We knew not
this man's name
His history
sadness or joy
But we knew him
well enough to leave
Our silent flowers
behind for him

— D.R. Burgon

Then this short one:

May the Great Spirit let you rest on your bench in the sky.

— (unknown author)

The longer poem was entitled "Third Bench on King Street West, Parkdale".

I cried. I cried for this unknown person. I mourned with the community, with their outpouring of love expressed to this man through the flowers, the candles, the poems, on his bench. Still the flowers come three weeks after his death. New candles are lit. The bench is mourned off to let the community mourn. What a caring, loving community, I thought to myself. Parkdale.

My Parkdale
Frances Sedgwick

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