EVERETT — Norma Rae Pilkenton wore her husband’s jacket, decorated with medals from his time in the Marine Corps.
She watched from the crowd as a candle was placed near the original spot, outside of the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett.
The fire was removed in July when renovations began at that building. Norma Rae Pilkenton and her husband, Brad Pilkenton, were in charge of the fire. They took it to the torch at the Evergreen Cemetery.
They planned to return it together, but didn’t get the chance. Brad Pilkenton died in February at age 79.
Norma Rae Pilkenton brought back the flame during a ceremony on Thursday, when a new memorial was opened.
“I was extremely proud when they asked me in honor of Brad to relight the fire,” she said. “The eternal flame was important to him, because we were put in charge of her a long time ago. It’s like it belonged to us.”
The couple had watched it for nearly four decades.
The fire has been burning on the Snohomish County campus since 1972. It was relocated one other time in 2002. The Pilkentons moved it then, too.
It was started by a local chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, to remember those who have died serving their country.
Brad Pilkenton was a Marine from 1957 until 1967, when he was discharged because of an old injury.
He would have stayed in if he could have, said his daughter Wendy Young, his dog tags hanging from her neck.
“He was a very proud Marine,” Norma Rae Pilkenton said.
The couple’s 40th wedding anniversary would have been in November. They made a home in Everett, where they lived nearly as long.
Young, her mother, and other members of the Pilkenton family gathered Thursday morning, the sun shining on the courtyard.
Josh Dugan, the county’s special projects director, hosted the ceremony. He thanked the Pilkentons for supporting military families.
Dugan is a veteran himself. He served in the Navy for about 30 years.
He was assigned to Naval Station Everett in 1992, when it was under construction. He’s called the area home ever since. Dugan retired from the military in 2015.
He views Memorial Day as a time to remember.
“People who have served have often lost comrades in arms,” he said. “For me personally, it’s a time of great reflection having lost friends overseas.”
Dugan also has helped develop the Military Pathways Program, introduced by Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers during the event.
The project is set up to help veterans shift from active duty to civilian. It supports service members who have been hired by the county as they move into their new jobs.
The new memorial is in a more prominent place now on the Snohomish County campus. It also has ramps so it’s accessible for all.
Coins and other tokens were found inside the last structure when it was removed — a surprise.
Some appeared as if they’d been placed there by the same person over the years. There were several 50-cent pieces from different eras, county spokesman Kent Patton said.
Anything found there is now inside the new monument.
The flame sits in the center of the concrete memorial. It wasn’t lit Thursday but will be soon.
The American flag is surrounded by others representing each branch of the military.
Two sailors from Naval Station Everett attached the main flag to its pole. Another began to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” as they hoisted it up.
The candle was placed soon after. Those watching bowed their heads for a moment of silence.
Memorial Day events
Arlington Memorial Day Parade: 10 a.m. Monday on Olympic Avenue, downtown Arlington; www.arlingtonwa.gov. Sponsored by Arlington American Legion Post 76.
Edmonds Memorial Day: 11 a.m. Monday at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery and Columbarium, 820 15th St. SW; 425-771-4741; www.edmondswa.gov. Bring a lawn chair. Refreshments served. Emphasis on those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a public unveiling of a new monument.
Ambassador of Peace Medal: 1:30 p.m. Monday, at 250 Fifth Ave. N., Edmonds. More than a dozen Korean War Veterans will recieve the Ambassador of Peace Medal. Those eligible to recieve the award must have served during the Korean War between June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953. For more information call 800-562-0132, option 1.