The sunset had faded, and Mount Rainier had dimmed out of sight by 5 p.m. Sunday, and people were still walking up from the town to the Eatonville Early Learning Center’s parking lot.
They were coming to honor Margaret Anderson, a Mount Rainier National Park ranger killed on a sunny New Year’s Day morning. She had set up a blockade to stop a motorist who had run a tire chain check point. He shot her, and she died of her wounds, leaving a husband and two daughters, ages 1 and 3.
Sunday evening, police, neighbors, people who had never met her, came to pay their respects at a vigil hosted by the Anderson girls’ day care.
People were drawing close to hear the speakers when Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor estimated their number at 150 to 200, with more arriving.
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Faith Baptist Church’s Pastor Joe Koehler asked for silence and began the vigil with a prayer.
“Lift up and remember Margaret, and care for her family,” he asked God.
Margaret and Eric Anderson were both park rangers, and he knew them in his capacity as chaplain for Pierce County Fire District 23. They had, he said, spoken of God and risk and duty. Margaret, the daughter of a Lutheran minister, had told him that she had been a person of strong faith since childhood.
“She was a cop because of her faith,” he said. “She was a ranger because of her faith. Because Jesus loved her, she loved others. She was willing to give her life for others... Because she loved The Lord and He protected her, she loved and protected you.”
Now, he said, the Anderson family is grateful for the love and comfort people have shown them.
A score of Eatonville residents signed a remembrance posted in the town hall.
Friends have credited Anderson’s calm professionalism with keeping the shooter from getting farther into the park.
Saturday evening, Deana Simons brought dinner – chicken alfredo, garlic bread and green beans - to the Anderson home, as Eatonville friends have been doing since the shooting. Relatives, clergy and law enforcement colleagues have been keeping watch with, and over Eric Anderson and their two young daughters.
“There have been 25 people taking meals at the house,” Simons said. “Last night, there were only 12.”
Among them were Margaret’s parents, the Rev. Paul and Dorothy Kritsch, of New Jersey. They attended the vigil with their son and daughter-in-law, Peter and Karen Kritsch, and their surviving daughter, Sarah Beylon, all of Wisconsin.
On behalf of the family, Beylon thanked the mourners, and spoke of a sister who had a graceful way of teaching by example and kindness, even with something as mundane as jogging.
Eric Anderson came by briefly, and without introduction, before returning to his daughters.
“I would like to express our thanks for the outpouring of love beyond compare,” he wrote in a statement he asked Koehler to read. “We take comfort in knowing how loved Margaret was.”
That love showed itself in the preparations for the vigil.
Neighbors Dara Zurfluh, Carri Korvanda, Kay Tucker and Kelli Loudin asked to use the school site, and arranged the program. They brought their daughters to help with the candles, the baskets for remembrances, the flowers. Emily Randolph, who brought fellow students from Eatonville High School, sang “Amazing Grace,” and brought some members of the crowd to tears.
Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677