Grief-stricken supporters of a Buckley toddler killed last week by a runaway pickup turned out in such numbers for a Saturday memorial service that they caused a traffic jam in the East Pierce County town.
Police were called in to direct traffic on Buckley’s Main Street, and parking was in such short supply that late-comers had to walk several blocks to the service in the gymnasium at Glacier Middle School.
“Our hearts are shattered. The grief is overwhelming. The pain is hard to bear,” Pastor Greg Daulton told a crowd of about 1,000 people who filled the wooden bleachers in the little gymnasium and rows of folding chairs set up on the gym floor. “In a time like this, we realize that we are very small people in a very big world.”
Lincoln Person, the little boy who died, was described by family members and friends as a remarkably happy and loving child whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life brought joy to all who encountered him.
“He was the most beautiful baby ever,” said Betsy Hathaway, one of a group of Lincoln’s “honorary aunts” who shared their feelings and memories at the memorial service.
Three of Lincoln’s uncles wore black Batman shirts to honor the little boy’s enthusiasm for the superhero. Lincoln’s father, Jason, wore a gold Harley-Davidson T-shirt, which he said was in honor of his son’s fascination with motorcycles.
Lincoln was struck by a truck April 14 as his father pulled him in a wagon down the Foothills Trail in Buckley. Person tried to move his son out of harm’s way but was unable to dodge the truck. Lincoln was taken to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Tacoma, where he died.
Police are still trying to figure out what caused the 78-year-old driver to veer off state Route 410 and drive about 500 feet down the paved trail before hitting Lincoln and crashing into a utility pole. They’ve ruled out alcohol but are looking into whether a medical issue or prescription medication could have played a role.
The Foothills Trail is about 35 feet from state Route 410 and runs parallel to the roadway.
Jason and Robin Person, the boy’s mother, both spoke at Saturday’s service, crediting their strong Christian faith for helping them deal with the tragedy.
Jason Person repeated what he said earlier in the week, that he bears no ill will toward the driver of the truck.
“I forgave that man immediately,” he said. “There was no anger, no rage. It’s all about doing good, being good. It’s about love.”
Jason Person said the accident taught him a valuable lesson. “What I learned this week is that no (material) thing is important to me. Lincoln was important to me. Really, the thing that should be important to us is one another.”
Person told the people gathered that if they wanted to honor Lincoln, they should go home and set aside some special time with their children, “because tomorrow is not guaranteed.”
Daulton, the family pastor, expressed admiration for both parents for their faith and strength.
When the distraught team of doctors and nurses at Mary Bridge at last gave up their efforts to keep Lincoln alive, he said, Jason immediately went to the medical team members and tried to comfort them.
“Dad gathered doctors and nurses in his arms and shared with them thanks,” Daulton said. “That is power, and that kind of power comes from God.”
In keeping with an Easter theme, Daulton suggested that tragedy may serve a larger purpose — seeing with clarity what really matters in life.
“When God saved the world, he did it through tragedy,” he said. “Tragedy can save you if you let it happen. Never take for granted little kids.”
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693