A memorial service Tuesday for Mount Rainier National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson drew hundreds of law-enforcement officers.
As ranger for the National Park Service, Margaret Anderson could not only point out the best hiking trails on Mount Rainier. But she was equally adept at rescuing lost hikers, bandaging damaged limbs, putting out fires and — as one of 1,500 rangers commissioned as a law-enforcement officer — taking scofflaws into custody.
“She had all the bells and whistles of the classic, superskilled NPS ranger,” said Robert Danno, who gave Anderson her first job as a ranger.
On Tuesday, as thousands paid tribute to Anderson, who was fatally shot New Year’s Day, it was her love of nature, and her devotion to family and God that were the focus of many remembrances.
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Anderson’s father, Pastor Paul Kritsch, said his daughter embraced her duties as a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park, which melded her lifelong love of the outdoors, as well as her desire to serve others.
She died, he said, while putting herself between “the evil that was coming up the mountain” and the visitors and hikers above who needed protecting.
Anderson, 34, of Eatonville, was killed as she was setting up a roadblock to stop a man who had driven through a chain-up site at Mount Rainier. The gunman, ex-soldier Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, had driven to the mountain after a shooting at a house party in Skyway.
Her death sparked an intense manhunt for Barnes, whose body was found the next day half-submerged in a creek a mile from where Anderson was killed. An autopsy showed that Barnes drowned, with hypothermia contributing to his death.
Anderson left behind a husband, Eric Anderson, who is also a ranger at Mount Rainier, and two daughters, ages 1 and 3. She is the first ranger killed in the line of duty at the national park.
Hundreds of National Park Service employees, as well as law-enforcement officers from agencies throughout the U.S. and Canada attended Tuesday’s memorial, which was preceded by a long procession of emergency vehicles.
Among those who spoke at Olson Auditorium at Pacific Lutheran University was Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who said, “We know that our nation has lost a good and brave ranger.”
“We know we cannot count the wildflowers of Rainier’s Paradise Valley, nor can we measure the pain of a loss so great,” said Salazar. “We know our nation has lost a good and brave ranger.”
Standing near the flag-draped casket, amid a stage decorated with evergreen trees, snow shoes, a medical kit, and Anderson’s tan ranger hat, Salazar also read a letter from President Obama, thanking Anderson for her service and offering his condolences for her family.
Colleagues who spoke at the memorial remembered Anderson as meticulous, dedicated and courageous.
Because she was unusually kind and compassionate, Danno said, he initially worried about her ability to be tough when needed.
He recalled one of her first assignments in 2002 as a ranger at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park when she was on patrol alone at night. She called dispatch to say she was heading out to confront four men who were drinking illegally.
Danno said he was concerned until she “informed dispatch she had four in custody.”
It was at Bryce that Anderson met her husband, Eric. The couple transferred to Mount Rainier in 2008.
Michael Jacobs, a former ranger and a deputy sheriff from the Placer County Sheriff’s Department in California, said after the service he drove up to “show his support for the community.”
Rangers, he said, perform extraordinarily varied services and require special qualifications. Anderson’s death was a reminder that “crime occurs in parks as well, and we need law-enforcement personnel to keep peace and make parks safe for visitors.”
Jeff Vassallo, a Washington state park ranger who works at Flaming Geyser State Park, said it was “great to see how we really are a part of a much larger family.”
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or email@example.com