Mizzou Botanic Garden Tribute Bench Sponsor shares tribute story

Wayne Behymer:

“I saw the benches around campus and thought it would be nice to honor Jo with a bench,” said Wayne Behymer, BS Ag ’60, in reference to the Tribute Bench he sponsored in honor of his wife Jo Behymer, BS, ’62 M Ed ’65, EdS ’75, EdD ’77, as a birthday gift.

Wayne and Jo Behymer

Wayne and Jo Behymer

MU has figured prominently in the Behymer’s lives. In addition to earning their degrees at MU, Jo also taught in the University’s College of Education before serving as assistant provost under Brady Deaton. The two met long before attending MU, but cemented their relationship as students.

The Behymer’s first met at a 4-H camp where Jo made an early impression on Wayne.

“We were assigned to the same table for meals,” Wayne said. “I was very shy and Jo found out she could make me blush. She would make a bet with a friend about it.”

The pair met again the following summer at the Boone County Fair — before again crossing paths at MU.

“As a student at MU, I was rush chairman for my fraternity and so had a list of all incoming freshmen,” Wayne said.

The shy rush chairman spotted Jo’s name on the list and asked one of his fraternity brothers whose girlfriend was a TA for Jo’s residence hall if she would approach Jo and ask her if she would go out with Wayne. The answer was affirmative and third time meeting was the charm.

“I was in Ag and Jo had one year left for her bachelor’s degree when I graduated,” Wayne said. “I planned to go into Ag sales but with no good openings in the Columbia area, I took a “temporary” job at MFA, now Shelter Insurance. That lasted 10 years before I went out on my own in life insurance sales. We’ve spent our lives in Columbia.”

The Jo Behymer Tribute Bench is close to the MU Chancellor’s residence and the couple’s entire family gathered there to surprise Jo while Wayne led her there on her birthday.

Jo had no clue why they were on campus and was happily surprised and moved by her husband’s thoughtful tribute.

“The location of the bench was special to me,” Jo said. “Brady and Anne Deaton were living in the residence at the time. I was assistant provost when Brady was provost, and then worked closely with him when he became chancellor. He and Anne are still our personal friends,” Jo said.

“The bench is in a beautiful setting facing the columns. I have had a number of former students contact me to tell me that they had rested on my bench.”

Story by Jan-Wiese-Fales

Behmeyer family

The entire Behymer family poses on the bench Wayne gave Jo for her birthday.