by Bruce A. Smith
On a little hill east of Eatonville and silhouetted by a rosy sunset on a crystal-clear evening, hundreds gathered Sunday, January 8 to light candles and honor fallen Mount Rainier Ranger Margaret Anderson.
Ranger Anderson was slain in the line of duty one week ago when she made a traffic-stop, just beneath the Paradise Ranger Station, on an individual who had run-through a chain checkpoint at Longmire. The driver reportedly drew a weapon and fired upon Ranger Anderson, striking her in the head and chest. Her assailant was also reported to have kept other Rangers and law enforcement officers from reaching her for ninety minutes, shooting up at least one other Ranger vehicle coming to her aid.
On Sunday evening, Eatonville pastor Joe Koehler, a family friend of Margaret’s and professional colleague as the chaplain of Fire District 23, welcomed the gathering.
“Margaret Anderson was an aunt, a sister, a wife, a mother, and a daughter – but she was also a woman of faith,” intoned Pastor Koehler. “And because of her faith she was also a cop.”
The pastor continued, and described Margaret as a woman who could accept the possibility of dying in the line of duty because of her strong religion convictions.
“Because she knew that Jesus loved her, she could love others,” said the pastor, explaining that such a view allowed her to become a law enforcement officer who served with calm, clear-eyed dedication.
The pastor said that he had conversation with Margaret about the risks of being a ranger and Koehler said that she knew she would be in heaven because at a very young age she had placed her complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
“Because of that, she could protect you,” said Koehler.
The pastor then read a section from Corinthians 2, which included, “Father of Mercy, who comforts all of us…”
Kohler then said that those gathered at the vigil were now able to be a comfort to the family.
“Eric is very thankful, very thankful to the City of Eatonville that he has all of you here, as family.”
Koehler then read a statement from Mr Anderson:
“The girls and I want to express our sincere thanks…you saw her beauty and love. She would be honored to see the support and love that you have shown here tonight…”
A tall woman named “Mickey” then addressed the audience and thanked the gathering for honoring her close friend.
Afterwards, Pastor Koehler called for five minutes of silence, during which numerous sniffles and teary exchanges were heard throughout the audience. Then, a sweet, clear-voice brought the gathering out of its reverie with a strong rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Lastly, Margaret’s sister, Sarah Beylon spoke, struggling valiantly to compose herself.
“The community has shown an outpouring of support beyond compare,” and she then shared a personal view of her fallen sister, describing a quirky but revealing instance of how Margaret helped her through a jogging and fitness regimen. Although she had just given birth to her youngest child, Margaret spontaneously ran alongside her sister – but slowing down incrementally as Sarah’s strength faded until all she could only walk.
“Margaret had a quiet way of making me a better person,” Sarah said. “In so many ways she helped me…every day, she was gently encouraging me.”
Pastor Koehler brought the gathering to conclusion by saying, “Thank you so much for being here. It means so much to the family to know that their daughter was so loved.”
The pastor identified the family, and in attendance was Margaret’s mother and father, Paul and Dorothy Kritsch, who live in New Jersey. Also, her brother Paul was at the candlelight vigil, along with his sister-in-law Karen Kritsch.
Although clearly anguished and craving privacy, Paul Kritsch addressed the media throng and thanked the assembled for showing their support of Margaret and his family.
“Thank you, Eatonville. This is a small town, but it showed tonight that it has a big heart.”
He also spoke directly about his deceased daughter, “I am very proud of her…she loved people, and she loved serving as a law enforcement officer.”
© 2012 The Mountain News-WA
Joan Hofer, one of the community members who attended the candlelight vigil offered the following poem to the family of Margaret Anderson, and she expressed a desire to share it with the readers of the Mountain News.
In the Line of Duty
What a wonderful occupation
To be a Ranger in the park.
To help the public be safe and secure
Never dreaming that such a menace
You think of your lovely family
What a joy they are to you.
A loving husband and two wonderful children
They mean the world to you.
Then comes to that dreadful day
Just doing your duty you were.
Never dreaming that it would be your last
As you left for work that day.
So sad it is to all of us.
We want to let your family know how we feel
They will always be proud of you
You will always be lovingly remembered.
I know you will look down from heaven above
To keep watch over your precious family.
Lovingly written by Joan Hofer, Eatonville, WA 1/8/12