The solitary bench that bears Dustin Weber’s name sits atop Whaler Island but doesn’t face Crescent City Harbor. Instead the bench points south to the mouth of the Klamath River, where the 25-year-old was swept out to sea nearly two years ago. The bench also faces Dustin’s final resting place.
A crane hoists the Dustin Weber memorial bench, above, to its ultimate perch atop Whaler Island, below. Del Norte Triplicate / James Haban
A year after the March 11, 2011, tsunami took his son’s life, Jon Weber spread Dustin’s ashes at a family plot off Requa Road.
Weber returned to Del Norte County last weekend so he could watch as workers with Tim Haban Construction installed the bench. It bears a plaque that reads, “In loving memory of 25-year-old Yurok native Dustin Douglas Weber, swept from the mouth of the Klamath River, March 11, 2011 tsunami. He may be gone, but never forgotten.”
“Whaler Island is great,” Weber said. “It’s a nice place for people to come sit down and view the ocean. I couldn’t ask for a better place.”
Weber, who is from Bend, Ore., initially approached Crescent City officials with the desire of establishing a memorial for his son. He said he wanted to put a plaque near the downtown memorial that honors the victims of the 1964 tsunami, but he couldn’t get city approval.
Weber had just spent two weeks running and biking from Astoria, Ore., to the Klamath River with his son’s ashes. He was due back in Bend that Monday when he spoke with a man who placed a plaque for a friend who had died in a surfing accident near the flag pole at the Crescent City Harbor. So before he left, Weber paid Crescent City Harbormaster Richard Young a visit.
“He mentioned the fact that his brother, one of his very good friends, was a drowning victim when he was growing up,” Weber said, referring to Young. “We were talking and he said a really neat place would be Whaler Island. It was perfect. We thought it would be nice to put something up there.”
The harbor has a number of memorial benches, many situated in a way that’s meaningful to the deceased’s family, Young said. Most commemorate people who were connected to the harbor or the waterfront in some way.
“We try to find some kind of connection with the location of the bench,” Young said. “In this case on Whaler Island, over-looking south, looks toward the Klamath River where the young man was swept out to sea. His body was recovered near Astoria, Ore., so the body would have passed right by that headland as it was carried north.”
Young added that while it’s difficult to see the mouth of the Klamath River from Whaler Island because it is hidden by a cove, one can see to Patrick’s Point on a clear day.
To help fund the installation of the bench, which cost about $1,700, Del Norte Triplicate Publisher Michele Thomas and the newspaper’s parent company, Western Communications Inc., got involved. Since Dustin Weber grew up in Bend, where Western Communications is headquartered, Thomas asked if a company fund called the Chandler Family Trust could help pay for the bench.
With funding from the Chandler Family Trust, which is administered by the Oregon Community Foundation, the Dustin Weber Memorial Fund was established with the Wild Rivers Community Foundation.
“We ordered the bench and Mr. Weber selected the words,” Thomas said. “And through a generous donation from Sunrise Rotary and Crescent City Rotary we purchased a plaque that thanks everyone (including) Haban Construction.”
According to Thomas, the Sunrise and Crescent City Rotary clubs donated $150 toward the plaque. The Triplicate also donated $50 toward the plaque, she said.
Following the tsunami, the Wild Rivers Community Foundation helped create several funds related to the 2011 tsunami, including a tsunami relief fund and a harbor reconstruction and improvement fund. Executive Director Geneva Wiki said she had followed Jon Weber’s journey from Astoria. Her grandmother and Dustin’s grandmother were neighbors.
“He died right in front of my grandma’s house,” Wiki said. “That’s our beach.”
Wiki said she spoke with Weber about setting up a memorial fund in his son’s name. She added that Weber had started a checking account in Oregon and collected donations.
“We talked about the community foundation as a tool to accomplish the dream of creating a fund in his son’s name,” Wiki said.
Weber said he does plan to hold a small ceremony in memory of his son, but added that it would likely be in the summer.
“I’d just like to thank all the people who made this happen,” he said. “I’m very honored that we were able to put it out there. It’s a wonderful place.”