A mother's tribute that travelled the world

Marco Marcelline 15 March 2022

When Susan Happel Bohrnstedt lost her son in 2017, she didn't expect the rocks she painted in tribute to him to travel the world

In March 2017, Susan Happel Bohrnstedt tragically lost her 19-year-old son Benjamin Parker. As his 20th birthday on the 9th of September approached, she found herself increasingly withdrawn and anxious about how she and her family would honour his life.

Then, the month before his birthday, she came across a Facebook post for “EvansvilleRocks!which was a group of people in her town of Evansville, Indiana, who paint & then hide rocks to bring happiness to others. She joined and after a few weeks of seeing all the joy being shared, Susan decided this was the way she would honour her son.

On Ben’s birthday, “my family and I got together, shared stories, laughed, cried & painted 20 rocks. Most had special meanings, and all were painted with love”, she says.

Susan and her son Ben 

Susan did not expect ‘Rocks4Ben’, as she calls the painted rocks, to have had such a wide impact. People from Evansville have taken the rocks on their travels around the world. “I can’t even explain how awesome it is to see a photo of a rock I painted in Evansville, Indiana sitting on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, in front of the Great Pyramid in Egypt or mortared into the doorway of a family home in the Dominican Republic.”

She adds: “In painting rocks I’ve found healing, inspiration and some days a purpose—a reason to keep moving forward. There is peace because Ben is with me as I paint. Each rock is a tribute to him, and his name is on the back of every one.”

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