Mother, son loved living on Steelhead Drive

OSO — Adam Farnes quickly took a liking to his new neighborhood.

It was one of those places where people knew each other. And that was familiar to the Farnes family.

Farnes moved to Washington from his native Alaska about a year ago. His parents had retired from jobs in Cordova and bought a house on Steelhead Drive. Jerry Farnes worked for an electric company in Cordova. Julie Farnes spent more than 25 years as the only UPS contractor in the small fishing town, which is only accessible by plane or ferry.

They appreciated similarities in the two small rural towns, friends and family said.

Adam Farnes was home with his mother, Julie Farnes, when the March 22 mudslide hit. His father, Jerry Farnes, was away.

Adam Farnes, 23, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he died that night.

Julie Farnes, 59, was later found in the debris. Her death was confirmed March 30.

Friends and family thought Adam Farnes was missing until last week.

Because he died at Harborview, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office had his body. At first, he was identified under the wrong name. The mistake was soon discovered and investigated.

James Apa, a public-health spokesman in King County, said it took more time than usual to confirm Adam Farnes’ identity because out-of-state records were needed. That delayed informing the family.

“It’s been really hard,” said Kellie Howe of Darrington, a friend of Adam. “We’ve been thinking he’s down there lost.”

Howe met Adam Farnes through the Regelbrugge family. Navy Commander John Regelbruggee III, 49, also died in the mudslide. His wife, Kris Regelbrugge, 44, is missing.

Adam Farnes “would just make you laugh all the time,” said Howe, 37. He played banjo, bass guitar and drums.

“He always made you feel good,” Howe said. “He’d do anything for anybody. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Adam Farnes enjoyed hiking and hunting. Howe said he told of once saving a baby otter on a hunting trip in Alaska. As the story goes, the animal eventually ended up at the Seattle Aquarium. When he later moved to the area, he visited the otter.

“That just shows what a good heart he had,” Howe said.

Adam Farnes worked at Mountain Lion Glass, a business owned by neighbors Shane Ruthven, 41, and Katie Ruthven, 35, who with their son, Hunter, 6, died in the slide. Wyatt Ruthven, 4, is missing.

Adam Farnes grew up with an older half-brother, Brian, and a younger brother, Garrett. He worked as a police dispatcher before moving to Oso.

The family was well-known in Cordova, Alaska. “Everybody knew Julie,” said resident Alexis Osborn. “Anytime you ordered online, as people in here often do, Julie would bring it. She was always smiling, always happy, never grumpy.”

Julie Farnes was also known for quilting and apple pie. She made quilts for charity auctions and new mothers.

“She was the all-seeing eye of quilting,” Osborn, 32, said. “It was just her thing.”

Life in Alaska suited the California native. Julie Farnes learned to hunt and bagged a moose.

Osborn, a mother of two, said she often went to Julie for parenting advice. She knew Julie’s son through her coffee business.

“Adam was a sweet kid, always smiling just like his mom,” she said. “He was this big, lumbering dude but always fun.”

Dixie Lambert, of Cordova, remembers Adam Farnes before he grew tall. The two families regularly spent Christmas together.

Lambert was set to visit Julie Farnes at her new home the day after the slide.

“Everybody was her friend. She literally didn’t know a stranger,” Lambert said. “She was such a bigger-than-life personality.”

Jim Urton, the oldest of Julie’s three brothers, said he started hearing about how the Oso neighbors had adopted the Farnes not long after they moved in. Urton said Julie loved to lay down the law as the family matriarch.

“Even though she was only 5 feet 3, none of us brothers, who all stand 6 feet to 6-4, would mess with her,” Urton wrote in an email.

“She was always ready with a smile, had a great laugh and a razor-sharp wit,” Urton said. “She was the kind of person that everyone should get to meet at least once in their lifetime.”

Instead of flowers, Lambert is gathering her quilts to possibly display at her funeral.

Adam Farnes’ friend Howe is among those who hope to see a memorial park built at the slide site to honor those lost.

“It took more people than we even realized,” Howe said. “It’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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