‘What are they thinking?’ Oak Creek family upset after vandals deface bench dedicated to loved one

Bench at Bender Park honors Joe Cocking

OAK CREEK -- A family in Oak Creek is working to figure out who would deface a bench dedicated to their late loved one. The bench was installed in honor of Joe Cocking, whose family noticed vandals marked it up with red paint.

Even on a frigid Tuesday, Feb. 5, Elizabeth Sparks found warmth watching the waves at Bender Park.

"It's so serene," Sparks said. "It's kind of a little secret that has been around in Oak Creek."

Bender Park, Oak Creek

She said the spot is near to her heart.

"My parents used to ride their motorcycles down here and just relax," Sparks said.

Joe Cocking

Sparks' late father, Joe Cocking, cruised down to Bender Park often. After his death in 2017, his family had a bench built and installed in his honor.

Elizabeth Sparks

"It looked perfect. It was like it was meant to be here," Sparks said.

Sparks came to visit over the weekend -- and was heartbroken by what she saw. Vandals tagged the beloved bench.

"It takes the breath away from you," Sparks said.

The family was hurt -- and left with questions.

John Cocking

"What are they thinking? What are they going to accomplish?" asked John Cocking, Joe's older brother. "It's like going to a graveyard and knocking over gravestones. There's no need for it."

The family said they hope it will one day be restored to its former glory.

"There was a group of individuals that came out and tried cleaning it up using acetone," Sparks said.

"We have to focus on positive things," John Cocking said.

"We forgive the individuals who did this. We hope they realize they don't need to do this to belong," Sparks said.

FOX6 News called the Milwaukee County Parks Department to let officials know about the vandalism. It's unclear whether they will be able to get to the park and remove the graffiti.

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