Cass Robinson tries out the hand-carved maple bench dedicated to the memory of her friend, Muriel Franck. Franck, who died in 2015, was well known as a council watchdog and an environmental advocate. Steve Kidd/Western News

Political watchdog honoured by city

A new bench in Gyro Park is dedicated to the memory of Muriel Franck

It’s taken a while, but the bench dedicated in memory of Muriel Franck was worth the wait.

Made from a maple tree that had to be removed by the city, the hand-carved bench now sits on the edge of Gyro Park facing city hall to memorialze Franck, who died in December 2015, just before her 98th birthday.

More: Longtime civic watchdog in Penticton dies

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, who unveiled the bench Tuesday, said that’s an appropriate spot, considering Franck’s reputation as a city council watchdog.

“There haven’t been many people like Muriel Franck in the community. I think most people would recognize her as someone who attended council meetings all the time … hounding the council of the day for whatever the issue was,” said Jakubeit, adding that parks and trees were her biggest passion

That care for the trees, he said, was shown in one of the stories told about her.

“There is a fair bit of folklore that goes along with Muriel Franck,” said Jakubeit, telling the story of how Franck once chained herself to a cottonwood that had been tagged for removal.

“With Muriel being an advocate, she was upset. She and her friend chained themselves to a tree, and gave the key to a friend and told them to drive to Kelowna, so she could honestly say she didn’t have the key,” said Jakubeit.

City crews couldn’t cut down that tree, but while there, they noticed two tall pine trees that also needed to be removed.

“They cut those trees down, while she was chained to the cottonwood,” said Jakubeit. “It’s a bit ironic that we are presenting a bench that is made out of wood.”

Cass Robinson, a close friend of Franck, also spoke at the ceremony.

“This was Muriel’s place to stay forever. She loved this city,” said Robinson. “She cared about every tree in this city. She cared about the sidewalks that weren’t maintained. She cared about the storm drains that got plugged and weren’t unplugged.

“And she brought it to city council and said ‘What are you going to do about it?’

Council watching was only one of Franck’s activities. Robinson said Franck was also dedicated to animal rights, and swam in the lake daily, even when she had to chip a hole in the ice to do it.

“She was quite an active swimmer, she rode a bike anywhere around town, way before cycling was the in thing to do,” said Jakubeit. “Many people say they are a council watchdog, but I don’t think anyone can live up to the lore of Muriel Franck.”