Olympia resident Brad Tower described his three children as exceptional — mentally, physically and emotionally.
The eldest, 12-year-old Benjamin “Ben” David Tower, was a football player. Despite his size, he was gentle and caring. He helped up players on opposing teams, and took care of his younger siblings, too.
Madeline “Maddy” Rose Tower, 10, was the creative one in the family. She drew, painted and started a cafe in her bedroom.
The youngest of the Tower children, 7-year-old Samuel “Sam” James Tower, was a nonconformist. He was fun-loving and danced whenever a good beat was playing.
“I was so looking forward to watching them change the world,” Brad Tower said. “I still picture them being together, watching out for each other.”
The three children died early March 4 when their Centralia home, where they lived with their mother, Sue Tower, caught fire. Sue Tower had been sleeping on the first floor and was unable to reach her children on the second floor.
The Olympia community said goodbye to the children Saturday at Evergreen Christian Church. The three had attended school at Evergreen Christian School, which adjoins to the church, before switching to public school and then moving to Centralia.
They spent most of their childhoods in Thurston County, where Brad Tower is a lobbyist at the Capitol. When the couple separated about a year ago, Sue Tower and the children moved to Centralia.
“I’m very, incredibly proud of them.” Sue Tower told The Chronicle. “It has not been an easy year and a half, and their light shone through.”
At Saturday’s remembrance, important figures from the children’s lives spoke, recalling memories and characteristics of Ben, Maddy and Sam.
Former football coach Trent Matson said Ben worked hard to ensure his teammates believed in themselves. The boy took football seriously and enjoyed playing, but Matson said he remembers Ben being most joyous while surrounded by family.
He told of a time when the team had been practicing at LBA Park. It was August, the beginning of the season, so all of the boys were hot. Instead of resting during a water break, Ben took off running, Matson said.
The boy sprinted to the other end of the park and back. When Matson asked what he had been doing, Ben said he’d gone to let his dad know where he was.
“I love that story because it epitomizes Ben Tower,” Matson said.
Sarah Adams, the children’s aunt, remembered Maddy as being creative and imaginative — and a surprisingly good entrepreneur.
The girl affectionately known as “Maddy Mouse” once created the Mouse Cafe in her bedroom. She invited family and friends for the grand opening.
“I made sure that I had cash because Maddy was a smart business woman,” Adams said.
Kindergarten teacher Quina Vela said that Sam “stuck out” as a student at Evergreen Christian School because he was so kind, smart and tender-hearted.
“Sam adored his mom, he loved his dad, and he adored Ben and Maddy,” Vela said.
Last week, Brad Tower planted three cherry trees near the preschool playground at Evergreen Christian School. After Saturday’s remembrance, those who gathered to say goodbye to the children walked to dedicate the trees in their memory.
Principal Cyndi Pollard said the trees’ location is perfect. All three children played on the playground, and the blossoms will entertain preschoolers for generations.
“These kids inspired so many people, and that’s why the loss feels so great,” Pollard said.
Saturday’s service was the first of two to be held in the children’s honor.
On Wednesday, the Centralia community will say goodbye to them at Northwest Sports Hub, 701 Allen Ave. in Centralia. The event will begin at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.
Brad Tower said he plans to keep finding ways for himself and his community to remember his children.
“When I do these things, that’s what brings a smile to my face,” he said. “That’s what allows me to be happy again.”