The idea arrived the way many ideas do: Clyde Bentley, a professor of journalism at the University of Missouri, was taking an outdoors stroll through a Columbia park.
"It had just snowed on this remote bench, when I noted someone had left a fresh flower and a note saying, 'I miss you,'" he recalled. "How can you not be taken aback by that?" The moment helped Bentley understand something important about the little memorial plaques on the park's benches. "These aren't just signs; they are people," he realized.