Since moving to La Cañada Flintridge nine years ago, Reg Green has started most mornings with a hike in the mountains above his home.
He frequents one particular trail that starts on a dirt road next to a Forest Service fire station off Angeles Crest Highway, a few minutes drive from his home. Locals come here at sunrise on weekdays to get in a run or bike ride before heading off to work.
Green, 84, usually stops at an overlook on the trail that offers views — on a clear day — of the downtown Los Angeles skyline and Catalina Island. One day while talking to Matt Davidson, another regular on the trail, he mused that it would be nice to have a bench at the spot where he usually turns around.
Davidson, who works at a local fire station, told Green that he would like to do something for him. A couple of weeks ago, Green got a surprise. He was coming around the corner of the trail, about to reach the familiar overlook, when he saw Davidson’s gift: a glossy wooden bench facing the city below.
Green has become accustomed to acts of kindness from strangers.
In 1994, while vacationing in Italy with his family, Green’s 7-year-old son, Nicholas, was shot and killed in an attempted robbery. Green and his wife, Maggie, decided to donate Nicholas’ organs and corneas to Italian children. The response was wide-reaching.
Green and his family were living in Bodega Bay, a town in Northern California, at the time of the incident. Bruce Hasson, a San Francisco sculptor, built a memorial tower where he displayed bells that were created from melted firearms.
Green wrote a book about the experience in Italy called “The Nicholas Effect” and frequently gives talks promoting organ donation.
“When people hear his story, they want to do something about it,” said Green. “It’s been a heartwarming feeling of everyone wanting somehow to help.”
Last year, a Los Angeles artist who created cutouts of famous cowboys to look over the mountains above the Glendale (2) Freeway, heard Green’s story. The artist, who goes by the name Justin, removed the pistol from his life-sized Clint Eastwood piece and placed a real bell in the figure’s right hand. On the back of the piece, he adhered a note encouraging people to ring the bell and learn about Nicholas’ story. But weeks later, it was mysteriously removed. With the bench, Green has a new local tribute to visit.
Davidson, 29, said he was affected by Nicholas’ story and wanted to do something for the family. After refurbishing an old, rundown bench Davidson found, a team of firefighters loaded it into a truck and drove it to the top of the peak.
“I think he was definitely a little surprised,” said Davidson. “He is a nice guy and deserves something for such a tragedy.”
On a recent morning, Green climbed up the trail, stopping to greet cyclists who were making their way down. When he got to the bench, he stood behind it, soaking in the view. Then he took a seat.
He usually stays at the overlook for only a few minutes before heading back home, he said. “Now that the bench is up, I may stay a bit longer.”