MEMBERS of an online group who grew up in Swanage and Wareham during the 1970s and 80s will dedicate a bench to almost 100 friends who have passed away.

Former Wareham resident Lee Maskery established the Facebook group from his American home last year.

Within weeks, its ranks had swollen to more than 1,000, so Lee organised a get-together, jumped on a plane and enjoyed a hastily-organised 70s/80s night in Purbeck with almost 200 pals.

“Here is where it gets interesting,” Lee told the Daily Echo. “I thought wow at the amount of people we had but what about all the friends we lost either at school or afterwards?

“I started to research this and we had lost nearly 100 people through different ways of death.

“It really knocked me back so I sat on my porch thinking about what I could do to honour these people and their loved ones that were left behind.”

And he came up with the idea of asking for donations on the Facebook site.

The idea took off and the online group raised enough money to have a Purbeck stone bench installed.

After more wrangling Lee finally got permission to install the bench opposite The Purbeck School, Wareham, in May.

Lee said: “The council had meetings and everybody loved the idea. This group is amazing, it has opened up memory banks that could never have been remembered without it.

“It has had hundreds of pictures uploaded of different parts of our generation’s lives and is proving to help future generations do the same thing. People have caught up with old friends from years ago and also made new friends along the way.”

The bench, which will be inscribed with the words ‘Friends We Lost Along The Way’ will be officially unveiled in Wareham on May 10.