Special Reports

Guardian angel placed at Powell children's grave

The bronze angel is meant to do in death what it could not do in life: look over and protect children.

On Monday, a 10,000-pound statue was erected at Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup on a hill overlooking the resting place of Charlie and Braden Powell. The boys, ages 7 and 5, were killed by their father, Josh Powell, earlier this year during a supervised visit at his rented home in the Graham area.

“This is not just for Charlie and Braden; this is for all kids that are victims,” Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

The angel sits atop a marble platform and invites visitors to place a white flower at the base. In scripted white letters, it proclaims itself “a place of love and healing for all those who have suffered the loss of a child.”

It will be officially unveiled Thursday during a 7 p.m. candlelight vigil to honor the lives of children who met violent ends. The public is invited.

The project got under way after Josh Powell’s family announced plans to bury him near the sons he attacked with a hatchet inside a house he then lit on fire in February. Josh Powell, who was being investigated in the 2009 disappearance of the boys’ mother, Susan, also died in the blaze.

Troyer and Sheriff Paul Pastor bought two plots for $1,750 next to the boys’ grave with money reimbursed by Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers.

Then the community stepped in. More than 1,400 letters came from all over the world, some offering words of condolence and encouragement and many with cash or coins stuffed in the envelopes.

Donations made the angel possible, with a price tag of nearly $48,000.

Chuck Cox, grandfather of the Powell boys, said the statue is a way to thank the community for its gracious support and provides a place for all those grieving a lost child.

The Puyallup man said his family sometimes feels guilty for all the attention heaped upon Charlie and Braden and likes the idea that the angel will keep watch over all children.

“The pain is the same for everybody,” Cox said.

It took less than two hours for a volunteer crew to assemble the 11-foot statue.

A large crane lifted the heavy marble platform onto the concrete while workers drilled holes where solar lights will be placed to illuminate the angel so it has a presence at night. Next came the thick marble body and finally the angel with its wings spread.

This particular angel was chosen for its message of hope.

Writer Richard Paul Evans wrote a novella, “The Christmas Box Angel,” about how a child’s death taught strangers the value of love. When the book became successful, he commissioned a statue and later created a business selling life-sized angel statues.

The one at Woodbine appears to be the 101st angel of its kind, and the first in Washington.

“It’s a gift,” Cox said.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653