Family Surprise Leads to New Bench at Panorama West
By Susan Thompson
Bob and Betty White have lived on Lake Panorama’s Christmas Tree Point for more than 30 years. Their first house on Andrews Terrace was purchased in 1987, and they split time between there and Urbandale. By 1992, they were living fulltime in a waterfront home they had built nearby.
The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last fall. In 2019, they are celebrating their 90th birthdays, with Bob’s in April and Betty’s in October. With these milestones in mind, their family recently came up with a surprise gift.
Their family includes son and daughter-in-law Dennis and Debbie White, who live in Colorado; son and daughter-in-law Noel and Patty White, Arkansas; and son-in-law and daughter Joel and Michele VanVark, who live in Des Moines. They have eight grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.
For the last year or so, Bob and Betty had talked about installing a granite bench near the par 4 tee box on the second hole at the Panorama West golf course. Bob was instrumental in helping create par 4 tees on some holes at the course. On the second hole, he mowed, cleared trees and bushes, then planted new shrubs. The couple has maintained the shrubs and sometimes flowers near the par-4 tee box ever since. They added a wooden bench, which stood for many years, until the wood rotted away.
Early this spring, the three children and their spouses banded together to get a granite bench installed near this tee box. “We wanted it to be a surprise,” said Patty White. “We knew it was something they really wanted to do sometime, and what better time than now to honor their 90th birthdays and 70 years of marriage.”
They turned to Des Moines-Winterset Memorials, a company founded in 1878. Bob’s father was a partner in the business beginning in the late 1920s. Bob followed in his father’s footsteps, as both a company owner and designer for nearly 40 years. During Bob’s time with the company, he designed and placed more than 200,000 monuments. Two of the most well known are the Korean and VFW memorials at the Iowa Statehouse. In 1992, the couple sold the company and Bob retired.
Over the years, Bob’s connections with Des Moines-Winterset Memorials helped make it possible to add four granite benches to the Panorama West golf course. It was natural this was the type of bench the couple planned to someday purchase and donate.
Keeping the bench a secret until the family could be present to unveil it wasn’t easy. Because of weather concerns, it was installed a week earlier than planned. Since Bob plays a lot of golf at Panorama West, the company covered the wording with stencil tape and wrapped the bench in a tight cover.
Sure enough, Bob saw the bench shortly after it was installed. And truth be told, he was somewhat upset someone would install a bench where he and Betty had planned to do the same.
When the weekend came, family members announced they’d like to play a round of golf. Betty, who used to play but doesn’t anymore, said she would stay home. But daughter Michele insisted she ride along. By the time the group reached the par-4 tee box on the second hole, the bench had been uncovered.
“It was a complete surprise,” says Bob. “We weren’t suspicious at all. It’s exactly what we planned to do, except we wouldn’t have had it engraved!” The bench is inscribed with the couple’s names, and states it is “in recognition of their many contributions to Lake Panorama and the Panorama West golf course.”
Bob was elected to a three-year term on the LPA board of directors in May 1995, and served as board president his final year. He was instrumental in getting board approval to build the Panorama West clubhouse, which was completed in 1997. The couple guided the decision-making process on many of the finishes, kitchen equipment and furnishings. They spent two days assembling furniture and washing windows in advance of an open house to show off the new building following the 1997 LPA annual meeting.
Bob served for more than 15 years on the Panorama West advisory committee. He also has served for many years on the Guthrie County board that oversees the Lake Panorama On-site Wastewater Management District.
The couple says they’ve enjoyed the many years they’ve lived and volunteered at Lake Panorama. Now they have a bench on the Panorama West golf course where they can sit and reflect on their family, friends and their 70 years of married life together.