Smokey Point playground renovated in boys’ memory

SMOKEY POINT — They remembered two little boys Tuesday with love and generosity and the joyful noise of children at play.

Hunter and Wyatt Ruthven were among the youngest victims of the March 22 Oso mudslide. The brothers, 6 and 4, died along with their parents and two of their grandparents when the hill swept away their home along the banks of the North Fork Stillaguamish River.

At the Northwest Children’s School in Smokey Point, where the boys had attended preschool classes, surviving family and friends gathered Tuesday to dedicate a renovated playground in their memory.

There were tears, but also whoops of delight as children clambered over a new climbing cave and into a multi-story fort outfitted with a slide and bars.

“Seeing all these kids playing, it is like ‘Wow!’” said the boys’ grandmother, Karen Pszonka.

The idea for the memorial playground came during a talk over coffee one day a few months back, she said. It captivated many who knew the active Ruthven boys, including their grandfather, Tom Pszonka, a retired Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant.

Education was important to the Pszonkas’ daughter, Katie Ruthven, and her husband, Shane, the crowd was told Tuesday.

Working with the teachers and others at the school to make the memorial happen has been a blessing, Tom Pszonka said.

“Our hearts go out to them. I appreciate them,” he said.

Visitors on Tuesday were told how the Ruthven boys loved to balance on the sidewall of a giant truck tire set in the playground’s wood chips. They scooted about in circles.

The tire was still there Tuesday. Just feet away sat a new bench inscribed with the message: “In memory of Hunter and Wyatt Ruthven. Forever in our hearts. 3-22-14.”

Students have struggled to understand what happened to the boys, school owner and director Kathy Ruesken said.

“They were both very loving,” she said. “They were the kind of kids everyone wanted to play with.”

Money for the memorial playground was raised through donations. A total of $12,943 in costs were covered using funds gathered for Oso slide relief by United Way of Snohomish County. In addition, United Way has earmarked $5,000 for a scholarship in Katie Ruthven’s memory at the University of Washington. It will go to students from Mill Creek and Arlington, where she grew up and became a mom running a business with her husband.

At the dedication ceremony Tuesday, the Rev. Tim Sauer of Immaculate Conception Church in Arlington asked adults to place their hands atop the heads of young people in attendance. He thanked God for children and their teachers, and the years the Ruthven boys had with their family and friends.

He asked that the playground be blessed as a place of happiness and fun and he offered gratitude for those who had turned grief into acts of generosity that will benefit children for years to come.

Sauer and Catholic Church congregations in Arlington and Darrington have taken lead roles in helping families who lost people to the slide. After Tuesday’s ceremony, he reflected on how for many months, the community has “been engulfed in death.”

He watched the children play.

It is good to see the energy of life again, he said.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snorthnews

More in Local News

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

Bolshevik replaces BS in Eyman’s voters pamphlet statement

The initiative promoter also lost a bid to include a hyperlink to online coverage of the battle.

After work to address issues, Lynnwood gets clean audit

The city has benefited from increased revenues from sales tax.

Man with shotgun confronts man on toilet about missing phone

Police say the victim was doing his business when the suspect barged in and threatened him.

Detectives seek suspect in woman’s homicide

Alisha Michelle Canales-McGuire was shot to death Wednesday at a home south of Paine Field.

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

Smith Island habitat restoration cost to rise $1.2 million

The project is intended to increase survival rates for juvenile chinook salmon.

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Jim Mathis, the Vietnam veteran whose Marysville garden was recently featured in The Herald, died Wednesday. Mathis, who suffered from PTSD and cancer, found solace in his beautiful garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Vietnam veteran Jim Mathis found peace in his garden

The Marysville man who served two tours died Wednesday after suffering from cancer and PTSD.

Most Read