Memorial Services Begin For Mudslide Victims While Search For Others Continue

Following Saturday’s funeral for Linda McPherson, residents join together for a community meal, a Darrington tradition, at the Darrington Community Center. (PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times)
Following Saturday’s funeral for Linda McPherson, residents join together for a community meal, a Darrington tradition, at the Darrington Community Center. (PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times)

Two weeks after the Oso mudslide, at two towns on opposite ends of where the disaster occurred, funeral and memorial services began Saturday for some of the victims, a new phase of communal grieving that will extend throughout this month.

The services started while search efforts continued for other victims of the March 22 mudslide. Reflecting how long and difficult that search has been, the state Department of Agriculture deployed its Reserve Veterinary Corps to treat about 30 search dogs for cuts and hypothermia, among other ailments.

Along with three memorial services, the communities around the mudslide held a candlelight vigil and a fundraiser on Saturday.

The service for 69-year-old Linda McPherson, a former school-board member and librarian, drew about 400 people to the Darrington Community Center, which was filled with daffodils and tulips in shades of yellow, orange and pink. Photos of McPherson, some salvaged from her family’s flattened home, were displayed next to a teddy bear, a set of canned preserves, and paintings she had made.

A mix of emergency workers, family, friends, former co-workers and people McPherson had mentored from all over Snohomish County shared stories after the service and ate food set out on eight long tables.

McPherson, a Darrington High School alumnus who raised a family on the property wiped out by the mudslide, had deep connections to hundreds of people living in the Oso and Darrington area. Her husband, injured in the slide, was rescued by neighbors and passers-by.

Services for Summer Raffo, 36, the fifth child in a Darrington family of 13 kids, and Joseph Miller, a former military medic, were also held Saturday, in Arlington. In the next week, more private services will be held for Alan Bejvl, 5-year-old Kaylee Spillers, William Welsh and others.

“People all across the country have been affected by this disaster,” Eric McPherson said at his mother’s memorial service. “Almost everybody here has lost somebody — they were our neighbors, our friends and our family.”

“She had just borrowed my scrapbook so she could plan a trip to Norway this summer,” Ellen Phillips, 68, said of McPherson. Phillips said McPherson had mentored her before she decided to be on the Lakewood School Board in Marysville. “She was a role model for a lot of people.”

As of Friday, 30 people have been confirmed dead and 13 are still missing after the mudslide sent waves of earth, trees and debris across the Stillaguamish River and into homes on the other side. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office said it would not update that list until Monday.

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SOURCE: Seattle Times
Alexa Vaughn

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