A beautiful golden locust tree off Elm Street stands as a tribute to Pnina Benyamini.
The legacy of the popular Chemainus woman who brought the community together through yoga, belly dancing and various cultural connections is preserved through the memorial tree and a plaque at the site near the railway tracks and Cowichan Valley Trail along the road leading to the Chemainus Ball Park.
It’ll soon be a year since Benyamini died on October 30 of 2020 at the age of 63 after a long and courageous battle against cancer.
The family chose the Robinia Pseudoacacia Frisia variety of the golden locust that was planted in the spring to commemorate Benyamini’s contributions in the town. The deciduous tree has already gone through a drastic season from the intense heat of summer and into the changing colours of fall.
“It’s one my brother, my dad and I really like,” son Adam Benyamini-Lamb said of the tree. “We went through four or five different tree options and listed them in order of what each of us preferred.”
Benyamini-Lamb lives in Saanichton, his brother Daniel in Victoria and dad Richard Lamb remains in Chemainus.
Pnina Benyamini made a big impact on so many people in the community and the family was unable to have a full service for her due to COVID.
“We had a small outdoor funeral in Victoria,” noted Adam Benyamini-Lamb. “At the time you could have up to 50 people in outdoor services.”
Having a place to remember Pnina was important to the family.
“It’s a beautiful tree,” enthused Adam Benyamini-Lamb.
Only certain locations are made available by the Municipality of North Cowichan for memorials and the family jumped at the opportunity to secure the site.
“We had the option for a tree in that location or a bench in another location,” Benyamini-Lamb said. “We liked the idea of a tree.”
Pnina was born in Israel. Her free spirit led to a rather incredible tale of leaving Tel Aviv – where she worked at a health and fitness centre as a swimming instructor while also teaching massage therapy – and wound up going to the Yukon before ending up in Chemainus.