Published: Thursday, June 9, 2005, 12:01 a.m.
SNOHOMISH - Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Starr's personality shone through, even when he was 9 years old.
Elizabeth Armstrong / The Herald
Philip Mitten, 12, waits to speak Wednesday in remembrance of U.S. Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Starr, who was killed in action in Iraq. Philip, who said Starr was his favorite baby sitter, was given Starr's uniform. At top, Starr's rifle, helmet and ID tags are displayed at the memorial service.
Starr and his family were riding a ferry on Puget Sound. A blind boy was also on board with his mother.
"There was Jeff, playing with this boy and having fun," said Starr's uncle, Tim Lickness, adding that the boy's mother told the family, "No one's ever done that before, no one's ever befriended my son like that before."
"But that was Jeff," Lickness said. "He was a friend to everybody."
The many stories about Starr were shared at his memorial service Wednesday. The stories portrayed his playfulness, his confidence, his courage and his sense of duty.
But the crowd that gathered to honor the fallen Marine took away more than stories. They left with a picture of who Starr was - a man who put others above himself.
"He was completely selfless," said Marine Maj. Jason Smith, one of Starr's commanders in Iraq. "I never saw him afraid, though he probably should have been."
Several hundred people packed the Snohomish High School gym for the service for Starr, 22, who was killed by a sniper's bullet on Memorial Day near Ramadi, Iraq. Starr was laid to rest earlier in the day at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Snohomish.
Starr's Marine dog tag hung from his rifle, which stood upon the altar for the ceremony. His helmet sat atop the rifle, his boots below it. A large drawing of Starr stood on an easel, surrounded by flowers.
The Revs. Charles and Ann Lewis, pastors of the Starr family's church, First Presbyterian of Snohomish, officiated at the 90-minute ceremony.
Ann Lewis described Starr as an "energetic boy with an eager smile." She said he was a fun-loving teenager who mastered computer games and cell phones and drove a yellow sports car. He grew into a confident young man who faced danger every day "with courage and commitment because it was his duty," Lewis said.
While Starr was a leader among his peers and was growing in his Christian faith, "we can't get around the fact that Jeff's life was taken away when he had so much more living and growing to do," Lewis said.
Starr enjoyed children and worked in his church nursery during his senior year of high school, and spent one week of his first Marine leave as a camp counselor.
He wrote and acted in a play his church staged during a mission to an orphanage in Mexico after he graduated from high school in 2001.
Philip Mitten, 12, called Starr his favorite baby sitter. The boy moved the crowd when he thanked Starr's parents for giving him their son's Marine uniform.
"If I could put Jeff in one word, it would be 'fun,'" Philip said.
Starr's selflessness was a hallmark of his service in Iraq, Smith said.
"I never saw him think about anybody other than his buddies. I never saw him think about anybody other than his fellow Marines," even when he was tired, hungry and dirty, Smith said. He was always checking in with Smith, asking if everything was OK, Smith said.
Smith looked at Starr's family and said, "I can't give you any comfort, I can't give you any condolences, other than you should be very proud of the man your son turned out to be.
"I've got a 4-year-old, and if he turns out to be half the man your son turned out to be, I'll be pretty pleased."
His fellow Marines said Starr was always trying to help wherever there was trouble.
Michael Ferguson, who served under Starr in the Marines, said there were two groups - "blue-ribbon" Marines, who stayed out of trouble, and the "dark-side" Marines, who somehow always found trouble.
Starr was a blue-ribbon Marine, but he didn't hang out with just the blue-ribbon type, Ferguson said.
Unlike other section leaders who would yell at those below them, Starr would pull people aside and talk to them when they needed direction, Ferguson said.
"He was a blue-ribbon kid that lifted us up," he said.
Tavin Reese, another Marine friend, called Starr "the best."
Reese paraphrased former rap artist Tupac Shakur by telling the audience: "Wars may come and go, but our warriors' spirits remain forever."
High school friend Adam Nourigat said Starr was always there for his friends. "And always there for me," he said.
Emmylyn Anonical, Starr's girlfriend for a year and a half, read a poem titled "I'm Free" during the service. Afterward, she said she'll remember Starr's spirit most of all.
"He was my first love, I'll love him forever," she said.
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