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The Garden Path

Phoenix Legacy Society Member Highlight: Diane Benjamin on Her Legacy

Diane Benjamin (right) speaking with Portland Japanese Garden Director of Development, Edwina Kane. Photo by Nina Johnson.

Recently retired, Diane Benjamin was a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations for 40 years and moved north to Portland from San Francisco some 20 years ago. This journey up the Pacific Coast was one that had been brewing. Benjamin had been, for at least a decade, a frequent visitor to Oregon to visit one of her dearest friends, Eleanor, and because she loved Portland Japanese Garden.

“I was a Garden member before I even moved to Portland—it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to move here,” Benjamin shared. The earliest trips to the Garden enchanted her. “The way it is situated up on the hill, how you climb up past the large evergreen trees, and can see Portland and the river and mountains—the setting is magical.”

Portland Japanese Garden’s Cultural Village. Photo by James Florio.

Benjamin understands well how Portland Japanese Garden takes new forms as the year progresses, noting her particular affinity for the cherry blossoms, irises, and wisteria. Over 30 years she has also seen dramatic changes such as the opening of the Cultural Village in 2017, and more subtle ones, such as moss washing the Garden in downy green. A particular point of pride has been the steady rise in visitation. “Steve [Bloom, Portland Japanese Garden CEO] and his colleagues have made the Garden better and more accessible with art, education, and special gatherings like O-Bon to help draw people in.”

When Benjamin started crafting her will, she took time to consider what she wanted her legacy to be. Portland Japanese Garden quickly came to mind. “I thought, ‘What would I want to go beyond me?’” Benjamin noted. “The Garden has been around for almost 60 years and will always be here. Though I might not be here in the future, I want others to experience the beauty and magic that happens when you step inside.”

Diane Benjamin attending a Phoenix Legacy event in 2021.

This kind of donation is one that Benjamin felt could make an impact. “I’ve never had a big income and now I’m retired,” she said. “But this is a way for me to give and know it’s going to a good cause – I can help something I value continue into the future.” To others who may be considering joining the Phoenix Legacy Society, Benjamin says it’s a worthy gift to give. “It gives the Garden stronger footing as it continues to evolve and pursue its mission.”

This summer, when Portland Japanese Garden celebrates another O-Bon festival, Benjamin will attend. Dusk will settle in and incense will be lit. She will think of her now late friend, Eleanor. Diane Benjamin has visited this garden – her garden – for more than half of its existence. Thanks to her contribution, the Garden will continue to grow for many more visits to come.

About the Phoenix Legacy Society:

The Phoenix Legacy Society helps individuals make sense of their estate planning process and align a plan with their philanthropic interests. The Society is also the Garden’s way of thanking the incredibly generous people who choose to honor Portland Japanese Garden in this highly meaningful way. Their participation in the Phoenix Legacy Society ensures the fulfillment of our mission for generations to come: Inspiring Harmony & Peace.