Frank Bent rolled up the sleeve of his dress shirt to reveal a tattoo of a Celtic cross on his forearm. It's a replica of his son Joshua's. Frank, who is the interim Parks & Recreation director in town, added a few other features to his own tattoo: A shamrock and the words "Joshua Bent, 1980-2007."
"It's all done in one line," he said of the design inside the cross, as he sat on his patio one recent afternoon. "That's what makes it so interesting."
The line continues just as Frank and Johanne Bent's son's positive influence on others' lives, long after his fatal car accident in Massachusetts four years ago. Joshua was an organ donor and, so far, his corneas benefited patients in England and British Columbia and his pancreas saved the life of a man with Type 1 diabetes.
Michael Slama was dying until Joshua's heart was the match he needed.
Joshua, who lived to be 27, was a graduate of Masuk High School's Class of 1998, and aspiring engineers from his alma mater will receive scholarships to the Wentworth Institute of Technology.
Johanne said recipients should be compassionate and a hard worker, the very qualities Joshua needed to make the dean's list in high school and college. During Senior Awards night at Masuk, Johanne gave the very first $2,500 Joshua Bent Memorial Scholarship to Paula McKane.
"I was so proud to award her that scholarship," Johanne said. "I met her for the first time yesterday. She seemed, genuine, sweet, compassionate and caring."
The main fundraiser for the scholarship is the annual Joshua Bent Memorial Golf Tournament, which is scheduled for this Saturday, June 11, at the Whitney Farms Golf Course, 175 Shelton Road in Monroe.
The tournament had about 85 participants in 2009, its first year, and it has been around 80 ever since. In the dark moments after losing their son, Frank and Johanne had decided to make something positive by establishing the scholarship.
"The number of people who have helped us through this whole journey ... they've been so understanding and compassionate," Frank said. "People have done so much for us in a variety of ways — taking the worst thing that could happen to the best thing."
"The Whitney Farms Golf Course, to let us do a golf tournament on a Saturday is just unbelievable," he added.
Registration starts at 11 a.m. and a noon lunch and a golf cart will be provided. A dinner and auction will follow. The Architectural Team, Inc., the company Joshua had worked for, sponsors the lunch.
Frank Bent is grateful for sponsors such as Framing by Kosal, El Coyote Restaurant, Mona Lisa Restaurant, Newtown Savings Bank, Glen-Ro Spirit Shoppe, Hawley Lane Opticians, Coca Cola and Abbey Rentals.
Prizes will be raffled off for gift certificates to restaurants, hairdressers, barber shops. Hartley & Parker Limited, Inc., in Stratford donated liquors for gift baskets to be raffled off.
'He left such a mark on people'
While growing up in Monroe, Joshua Bent was destined to be an architect.
"He just loved to draw. He knew early on what he wanted to do," Frank said. "Whatever he set his mind to, he did very well."
Joshua worked at Stop & Shop to save up to buy a car when he was 17 and, within a month, he was asked to go to New Haven to train people on cash registers, Frank recalled.
"He left such a mark on people," Frank said. "He was just really kind and compassionate."
Joshua was working part-time at Franklin Covey Office Supplies while enrolled at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. While there, Joshua taught customers how to use Palm Pilots they bought. He got to talking to one, who was with Burt Hill Riddleman Architects. The man offered him an internship.
Joshua took him up on it, before doing another internship at the The Architectural Team.
Frank said the firm took a liking to Joshua, who asked them if he could have a job there. He said The Architectural Team does not normally hire interns, but made an exception when it came to Joshua, who worked there part-time before being hired full-time after graduating from Wentworth in 2003.
Michael Binette, vice president of The Architectural Team, was so moved when Joshua died in a car accident that he sent a hand-written letter to Frank.
"Know that the pride and love you clearly felt for Joshua were well founded," Binette wrote. "His drive and abilities as a young colleague, and more importantly, his character as a man were a clear reflection of those values instilled in him throughout the early part of his life."
Frank and Johanne's grandson, Atticus "Joshua" Bent, from their older son Matt, 34, and his wife Nicole, is currently in the early part of his life. The couple sees more similarities between the toddler and Joshua at that age than his head of red hair.
"We see a lot of Josh's qualities in him," Frank said. "He may not cry in two or three days. He's just so well adjusted. All of Joshua's good qualities are in him and, of course, the obstinacy, which he gets from Matt too."
That stubbornness is what fueled Joshua's successes.
'He's my hero'
Michael Slama, 50, had a difficult time being upbeat while suffering from heart problems. After Joshua's heart gave him a new lease on life, Slama and his wife Nancy arranged to meet with the Bents. Now the couples are good friends.
Johanne remembers spending hours looking at a photo album of Joshua with the Slamas and her daughter-in-law Nicole.
"Mike wanted to know all about Joshua," she said. "He called Joshua his hero."
"His wife gave Johanne a package of Lifesavers and said, 'You are a life saver,'" Frank recalled. "And we kept it."
For Saturday's golf tournament, Johanne said, "This year, as a favor for all people who come, we're going to give them a package of Lifesavers with a ribbon attached to an organ donor card."
With all of the people who have benefitted from Joshua's organs, some have told the Bents their son's story should be made into a movie, but Frank does not see it that way.
"This is what people should do," he said. "It's just the right thing to do. That was his life and I'm very proud of him. Joshua lived a well-lived life."