Dedication of columbarium for mudslide victims set for Aug. 16

DARRINGTON — A columbarium dedicated to the 43 victims of the Oso mudslide is set to be unveiled Saturday at the Darrington Cemetery.

A dedication ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. and is open to the public. The Darrington Cemetery is located along Highway 530 on the west edge of the town.

The columbarium is a niched wall where families of the victims can choose to inter their loved ones’ ashes. Each segment of the wall has space for two urns.

Black granite plaques list the names of those who died in the March 22 disaster on one side of the columbarium, and information about the Darrington Cemetery on the other.

Monroe’s Koppenberg Enterprises partnered with eight other businesses and the town of Darrington to create and install the columbarium. It was donated shortly after the mudslide, but volunteers needed time to make plans and get the wall set up in the cemetery, said Rosetta Willis, a Darrington resident and member of the town’s cemetery board.

The names on the plaques are familiar to Willis. She knew Alan Bejvl, Steve Neal and Linda McPherson. She wants to honor them.

“It’s for the families,” Willis said. “It’s in memory of the victims.”

Benches have been placed around the columbarium so people can sit and reflect or mourn.

“I want people to just come freely to relax and sit and ponder,” she said.

Kim Koppenberg, owner of Koppenberg Enterprises, said his company generally works with veterans organizations on columbariums and memorials. He wanted to use his expertise to help after the mudslide, and other companies rallied to provide detailing, design and materials. Businesses that contributed include: Olympian Precast, Quiring Monuments, 3DP Works, Dels Truck Rentals, Reece Construction, Backstrom Curb and Sidewalk, Granite Construction, Concrete NW and Washington Compost.

Koppenberg plans to attend the dedication and hopes the columbarium will help people heal.

“Memorialization for this type of tragedy is really important,” Koppenberg said. “It helps for people to remember, to see and touch.”

The dedication ceremony includes a prayer, a thank-you to first responders and a salute for three mudslide victims who served in the U.S. military: Billy Spillers, William Welsh and John Regelbrugge III.

People can stay after the ceremony to examine the columbarium, Willis said.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I think it will be very memorable.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

People who lost family members in the Oso mudslide can email gerdwillis@yahoo.com for more information about the columbarium.

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