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New Strand Bench Honors Luke Gilroy

Mar 27, 2019 02:06PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

A new bench on the Strand in El Porto honors the memory of Manhattan Beach native Luke Gilroy

A new glossy blue bench on the Strand in Manhattan Beach evokes the surf and sky - and serves as a memorial to Manhattan Beach native Luke Gilroy.

Gilroy, a Mira Costa graduate, financial analyst, world traveler, and surfing enthusiast, passed away in 2017 at the age of 33 from a rare form of cancer. His parents, Barbara Smith and Tom Gilroy, commissioned the bench in his honor.

The bench is located at a quiet spot between 44th and 45th Streets on the Strand, near where Gilroy would hang out with his friends and later his wife, where he loved to surf, and where he would sit and watch the ocean.

Remembering Luke

"When Luke passed away, we decided that commissioning a bench on the Strand would be a way to donate to the city he loved," said Smith. "And for a memorial, there was no better place than overlooking the ocean where he surfed in front of one of his best friend’s house."

Smith continued: "For us, the bench is a place to sit by the ocean and remember our son at one of his favorite places. Luke spent his college and work years on the East Coast but as soon as he came home to Manhattan Beach, he’d take his board and walk down to the ocean to surf."

Smith added that their hope was that the bench would also provide a place for others "to simply enjoy sitting there, contemplating whatever is on their mind, looking at the ocean in peace."

Meredith Blount, Gilroy's widow, noted that the design and the location of the new bench felt incredibly serendipitous. "When I first saw it, it struck me that the way that it’s designed is perfectly lined up to how Luke and I were sitting on [the previous bench] the last time we were there," she said. "Luke sat on the right side upright, and I had my head on his lap, but my legs were curved around - and I was wearing a blue skirt."

She added that she was glad to see the new bench honor memory of Gilroy and the joyful times he experienced at the beach. "For me, I feel connected to him everywhere, but it’s also nice to have a visual and physical place, a reminder."

The "Puddle" Design

The glossy blue design, known as "Puddle," was created by the Los Angeles-based Ball-Nogues studio.

According to Gaston Nogues, one of the principals at Ball-Nogues, the inspiration came from the look of water and the sea. "For the color, we were looking a lot at the tone when you’re in front of the surf, and it looks almost grey, and you see the transition between the sky and the surf," he said. "We designed it in a way that riffs off of the idea of surfing - and it makes a lot of sense given where it is located."

The glossy automotive-style paint was done by Evan Barn, and California Art Products did the fiberglass work.

The Gilroys donated the bench through Manhattan Beach's Strand Alcove Bench Program.
A plaque honoring Luke Gilroy will be installed next week, said Martin Betz, cultural arts manager for the city of Manhattan Beach.

Luke's Legacy

Gilroy also continues to be remembered through The Luke Legacy, an nonprofit organization Blount created to inspire people to "live more like Luke" through volunteering and community involvement.

"The organization was created mostly to encourage people to get involved in the community and give back, because that’s what Luke did. He recognized that he was very fortunate and he didn’t take that for granted," said Blount. 

"The thing that I would like people to remember about Luke is how they felt when they were around him, which is a lighter, happier person," continued Blount. "He made you want to do good for other people. I wanted people to continue to do that, to continue spreading love and light into the world."

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