Local family receives heartfelt tribute for two children lost in separate vehicle accidents

By Becca Sligh

Paso Robles Press Contributor

PASO ROBLES — A memorial bench has been installed in downtown Paso Robles for a local family after it tragically lost two of its three children to vehicle accidents independently of each other. Donna Epperson, mother of Deanne Martinelli of Martinelli Landscape, presented a memorial bench to one of Martinelli Landscape’s long-time employees.

“The father, Armando Montes, has worked for mine and my husband’s landscape company [Martinelli Landscape] for over 20 years. He and his family are like family to us,” says Martinelli.

In 2013 the oldest daughter, Jeanette Montes, was killed in an auto accident in Paso Robles. Her two younger brothers were also in the car but miraculously survived. Unfortunately, in 2018, the middle son, Joe Armando (Junior) Montes, was was helping a fellow co-worker in Paso Robles when he was struck by a car and killed instantly. Janette and Joe were survived by their parents, Armondo and Gabby Montes, and youngest sibling, David Montes, who will be a junior at Paso Robles High this coming fall.

The idea of the memorial bench has been in the works for a couple of years. 

“She [Epperson] tried to have the memorial bench made in 2019, but then COVID hit, and the bench order was put on hold”, Martinelli recalls. When asked why they decided to do a bench, Martinelli explains, “She [Epperson] wanted a place for the parents to go to where they could just sit and reflect”. 

Martinelli also added the meaning behind the location of where the bench was installed as well stating, “She [Epperson] put a ton of heart and soul into it. She walked around the park and downtown square and decided to have it over by Orale Taqueria and Cold Stone Creamery because she thought it would be a happy place where families go to eat and figured it would be a nice tribute to the kids.”

Martinelli also states that the process for putting in a memorial bench is actually through Paso Robles Downtown Main Street Association. 

“She [Epperson] got with the Main Street Association to get the bench idea going. She also talked with the business owners on the street where she wanted the bench placed to make sure it was okay, and they were on board with it.” Martinelli also explains the person who installs the bench does it on a volunteer basis and goes in the early morning hours to put the bench in.

The memorial bench was a complete surprise to the family and was finally unveiled Wednesday, July 19.

Martinelli also adds that if anyone happens to go and see the bench and take photos, the family would love to see them. All photos taken at the bench can be sent to Deanne Martinelli via email at deanne@martinellilandscape.com.

Feature Image: (From left) Armando Montes, David Montes, Donna Epperson, and Gabby Montes pose behind the memorial bench on the day of unveiling. Contributed Photo