If you sit on the new bench in Kingsmen Park dedicated to late alum Justin Meek, you will be surrounded by all the aspects of California Lutheran University’s campus that he loved.
Located next to the tree where Justin used to hang his hammock, you are within shouting distance of the Veteran Resources office where he worked, the bridge crossing to the pool where he played water polo, and Jack’s Corner where he sang at open mic nights.
“It’s a pivotal point in this campus, and it’s a pivotal point in everybody’s lives when they graduate college, when they go to find their purpose and move forward… I honestly feel that [Justin’s] purpose here on earth was to connect people and to make people feel loved and appreciated, and to share that, and to have people go forward in his memory,” said Laura Lynn Meek, Justin’s mother.
The bench was dedicated to Justin, one of the 12 victims of the Nov. 7 Borderline Bar & Grill shooting, in a ceremony the morning of May 3.
Students, staff, faculty and other members of the community gathered in front of the bench, which was surrounded by velvet ropes and flowers for the ceremony, as country music played on speakers. Meek’s family, friends and Cal Lutheran leadership then spoke about him and the meaning of the event.
“As we get to the tailend of the academic year, it provides yet another opportunity to reflect on the pain that’s in our hearts from losing Justin and from all that went on… Justin Meek is still part of Cal Lutheran and Cal Lutheran’s heart,” University President Chris Kimball said in opening remarks.
Noted repeatedly was Justin’s extensive involvement in the community and dedication to others.
The dedication was followed by a BBQ, where hot dogs, veggie burgers, chips and drinks were served. Justin was “the dude with the food” and used to grill for the annual Veteran’s Day BBQ, Laura Lynn Meek said.
Attendees could also donate to the Justin Meek Memorial Scholarship at the BBQ. Laura Lynn Meek said this will be an annual scholarship awarded to criminal justice majors. Donations can be made online on the “Giving to Cal Lutheran” page.
Justin graduated with a criminal justice major in 2018, and his sister junior Victoria Rose Meek is also a criminal justice major.
Laura Lynn Meek said Associated Students of California Lutheran University Government approached her about organizing a dedication and were the ones who funded the bench.
Senior Fernan Diamese, a close friend of Justin, said there has been talk of other dedications on campus. He said Veteran Resources wants to create a corner for Justin by their office in the Student Union.
May 7 marks six months since the incident at Borderline. Many attendees wore “CLU Strong” clothing and shirts honoring Justin.
Laura Lynn Meek asked that people take the time to sit on the bench and share stories of her son.
“Benches can become places where we remember people we have loved, whose memories and presence are etched in our mind and hearts. Benches can be places where we have conversations of love, and challenge, and encouragement, and acceptance, and forgiveness,” said Melissa Maxwell-Doherty, campus pastor and vice President for mission and identity, during the dedication. “Benches are not just for the body, but for the human heart as well.”
By Ellie Long