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Book preserves Long Beach bench plaque memories

More than 250 people came out Sunday to celebrate a book telling the stories behind the plaques that adorn Long Beach boardwalk benches.

Children, parents, husbands and friends remembered the people whose names graced the 722 benches that were on Long Beach's boardwalk before Superstorm Sandy ravaged the beach community.

Jeff Singer, who spent the last two years gathering the 150 stories, said the project started because he wanted to find out the tales behind the plaques he walked by everyday.

"I'm 70 years old and I've done a lot in life trying to help people," said the former teacher, who calls himself the "Bench Mench." He said: "This means the most."

The storm made the project even more urgent. "I knew it had to be done," Singer said. "Long Beach will not take another defeat."

Long Beach officials said many of the benches are currently in storage as the boardwalk is repaired, but would be put back in the fall. Most of the plaques and benches were recovered after Sandy and those that weren't will be replaced, said Long Beach Council vice-president Fran Adelson.

Jerry Mackay, 53 of Rockville Centre, said the bench dedicated to his wife after her death in 2002, "is a sacred place."

Each family or friend who responded to Singer's call for the stories behind the bench plaques has a single page in the book and photo. There are also photos of all 722 plaques, taken by photographer Atom Lark.

Of the 600 books printed, about 500 were sold Sunday. Any profit will be donated to storm recovery charities, said Elinore Brown, the book's designer . The event was held at the Long Beach Hotel ballroom.

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