Strangers turn out along procession, in church to honor Anderson

Staff writerJanuary 10, 2012 

They were retirees, moms, workers, National Park Service staffers and law enforcement officers – some of the thousands of people who turned out Tuesday to honor Margaret Anderson in their own way.

Whether in uniform or not, they all spoke of their desire to show support for the family of the fallen Mount Rainier National Park ranger. They also felt something in common with the 34-year-old mother of two, who died Jan. 1, even though none of them knew her.

Anna Shuck was among the 70 people at Rainer View Christian Church quietly watching the memorial service for the slain law enforcement ranger. Officials estimated 3,500 people attended the service at Olson Auditorium and another location on the Pacific Lutheran University campus, another across the street and the Parkland church.

Shuck said she wanted to show support for Anderson, the family and park staff. Shuck brought along her 4-year-old daughter Alyssa.

“There’s not much we can do but show our support by being here,” Shuck said, explaining why the two made the 45-minute drive from Port Orchard.

The fact that Anderson is the mother of 3- and 1-year-old girls also resonated with Shuck.

“As a mother, I was thinking of her children,” she said. “I can’t imagine what they’re feeling.”

A sense of family is one reason Judy Lively volunteered. She and fellow Olympic National Park ranger Jon Preston drove down Monday night to assist at the church Tuesday. Also on hand was an honor guard of officers from the Port of Seattle; Eugene, Ore.; and the Women’s Corrections Center for Women in Purdy. They handed out programs and Kleenex if necessary.

Talking about why she willingly gave up her day off, Lively repeatedly mentioned the deep familial bond all National Park Service rangers share.

“It’s the connective tissue that holds us all together,” she said, even if they don’t know each other.

Lively, an 18-year Park Service veteran, said park employees by the nature of their chosen profession share a common goal: to protect the nation’s valued natural and historic lands.

“We all have an altruistic goal,” said Lively, who has worked at Olympic for 2½ years. “We are projecting all our energy to save something for future generations to enjoy for years. It makes me realize how important what we do is and how good the people we work with are.”

Along the route from Mountain View Funeral Home in Tacoma to the PLU campus, people stopped their morning routines to watch the procession of vehicles carrying the family, dignitaries and first responders.

Among the dozen people who silently stood at South Steele Street and 112th Street South was Bill Harrington, his breath visible on the cold morning. The Graham resident took a break from babysitting three litters of old English sheep dog puppies to pay his respects.

“I just wanted to honor the service and life of the lady,” he said. “This is the day she’s going to be (honored) and she shouldn’t be alone.”

Living in a rural area, Harrington said, people learn to rely on each other. The loss of an officer like Anderson touches everyone.

“It’s like losing a neighbor,” he said. “These are real people, someone’s wife, husband, mom or dad.”

In Parkland, about 50 people, standing quietly alone or in groups of two or three, watched the somber procession from the sidewalks adjacent to PLU.  The long line of cruisers stretched far into the distance on C Street South, their blinking red and blue lights reflected on the wet asphalt.

Teresa Weydert put her hand on her heart as the long, white hearse carrying Anderson passed.

“It hurts,” Weydert said, “maybe partly because she was a mom, and I’m a mom. She was doing her job. She probably saved a lot of people up there. Who knows what that guy would have done.

“The mountain has a special meaning to all of us,” Weydert said, gesturing in the direction of Mount Rainier. “The fact that someone was up there desecrating it makes it worse in a way.”

While Anderson’s family and close friends gathered in Trinity Lutheran Church for a brief, private service, Gail Egbers and Sue Golden, stepped out of the PLU library, where they work, to watch the remainder of the procession pass.

“This is a way to pay respect and honor,” Golden said. “People feel so helpless when something like this happens. This is something they can do to show how they feel.”

Those expressions of support mean a lot to the law enforcement community, said Lakewood police officer Ken Devaney. Officers draw strength from the support from other agencies and the community, he said.

“Seeing school children, the elderly, people with their dogs, all standing in the cold, wind and rain, that’s very moving,” Devaney said.

He and fellow officer Dale Thomas spent time Tuesday morning at Forza Coffee Co. on South Steele Street. They were assigned to traffic control as the procession went through the Steele Street-112th Street intersection.

In fact, more than a dozen police officers, SWAT team members, troopers and sheriff’s deputies – their badges covered with black bands – stopped by the shop before heading for the service.

The coffee shop is a poignant reminder of the every day dangers law enforcement officers face. It is where four Lakewood officers were shot and killed in 2009. The flags at a memorial outside the shop for those officers were flying at half-staff Tuesday.

“It’s very difficult, it hits close to home,” Devaney said of Anderson’s memorial. “I’ve been to too many police funerals.”

Devaney estimated he’s been part of at least 20 services for fallen police officers in the past 16 years.

Thomas was thinking of the park’s contingent of law enforcement rangers, and the rest of the staff, and what they were experiencing. He also couldn’t help but think of his fallen co-workers.

“Sitting here at the table, looking up at photos of them, there are constant reminders,” Thomas said. “It has a special meaning on a day like today.”

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure

Staff writer Rob Carson contributed to this report.

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