TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Margaret Anderson became a law enforcement officer with the National Park Service because she wanted to help people, and she put herself in the way of evil on New Year’s Day because of her deep religious faith and love for others, her father told thousands of people Tuesday at her memorial service.
Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two young girls, was shot and killed Jan. 1 at Mount Rainier National Park by the driver of a car that blew through a checkpoint.
She had been working at Paradise, a picturesque and popular winter destination at the park, when she was called to help set up a roadblock. Authorities said the runaway driver stopped at the roadblock, got out of his car, shot Anderson and fled on foot into the wilderness.
Searchers later found the body of the man, 24-year-old Iraq war veteran Benjamin Colton Barnes, in a snowy creek. An autopsy showed he died of drowning with hypothermia as a factor.
Anderson “did it without thinking because it needed to be done,” her father, Pastor Paul Kritsch, told top federal officials, fellow rangers, law enforcement officers and other well-wishers who packed an auditorium at Pacific Lutheran University to celebrate Anderson’s life.
“We know that our nation has lost a good and brave ranger,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who also read aloud a letter from President Barack Obama offering Anderson’s family condolence.
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, Gov. Chris Gregoire and other officials attended the service. Mount Rainier National Park superintendent Randy King said lives were saved because of actions taken by her and other law enforcement officers.
Speakers told the packed auditorium and listeners in overflow venues that Anderson was meticulous, passionate and detail-oriented. She was a devoted wife and mother whose love of Jesus inspired her to law enforcement, in part to help keep the world from being in chaos, Kritsch said.
As a child, she and her two siblings often roamed on the family’s two-acre wooded property, through its trees and streams, which nurtured her love of nature and the outdoors, her father said.
She joined the Park Service in 2002 at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. That’s where she met her husband, Eric Anderson, also a park ranger. Margaret Anderson also worked as a law enforcement park ranger at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Maryland.
They both transferred to Mount Rainier in 2008. Her husband was on duty elsewhere in the park when she was killed.
The memorial service began with a funeral procession of law enforcement vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks. Later, hundreds of rangers, officers and others saluted, as Anderson’s family and friends followed her flag-draped casket into Olson Auditorium.
Firefighters, rescue workers and law enforcement officers from numerous agencies in Washington state and surrounding regions wore dress uniforms. Many had black patches over their shields.
Michael Jacobs, a retired park ranger, drove 700 miles from California to show his support for Anderson’s family, colleagues and the community.
“Ranger Anderson joined to help people and to serve,” said Jacobs, a reserve deputy with the Placer County Sheriff’s Department. “It was extremely tragic.”
Anderson was born in Canada and grew up in Westfield, N.J. She earned a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife biology from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in biology from Fort Hays State University in Kansas.
Holding back tears, Robert Danno, who was Anderson’s chief ranger at Bryce, said she would always be his hero.
“In life and in death, rest now Margaret. There’s a special place in heaven for heroes,” he said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)