Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery in Everett was quiet Sunday. Gov. Jay Inslee has limited memorial events to immediate family only. (Julie Muhlstein / The Herald)

Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery in Everett was quiet Sunday. Gov. Jay Inslee has limited memorial events to immediate family only. (Julie Muhlstein / The Herald)

Final farewells continue, but few are allowed to say goodbye

Rules for funerals limit attendees to immediate family. In Darrington, a memorial tradition is on hold.

With tears and memories, loved ones are still saying their final goodbyes. But rules in place to prevent more cases of COVID-19 have meant fewer hugs and tributes and less togetherness as memorial gatherings are limited to immediate family.

And the ban on get-togethers has temporarily halted a longstanding tradition in Darrington, where the community is known for its old-fashioned funeral dinners.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Saturday announced guidance related to funerals as part of his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation.

The state Department of Licensing, in partnership with Inslee, sent a letter to funeral homes and cemeteries that outlined limits on gatherings. As the licensing agency for mortuary services, the department said funerals may be conducted at licensed funeral homes or graveside in cemeteries.

“Funerals are only attended by immediate family members of the deceased,” the letter said. And “family members in attendance must maintain proper social distancing, defined by the Centers for Disease Control as staying six feet apart.”

Sue Burrows, whose 94-year-old father, Verner Tovrea, died March 8, said her family hopes to honor the World War II veteran with a service this summer. Tovrea, who lived in Marysville, would have turned 95 in August.

“A delayed memorial takes away the chance to have some closure. Everyone’s life is kind of in limbo,” said Burrows, of Bainbridge Island. She said her dad knew hundreds of people, and his family has chosen to wait until they can host a larger memorial. Her father was cremated, and the family has his ashes.

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Cemetery in Snohomish is not a funeral home, but graveside services of immediate family only are allowed during the coronavirus outbreak. (Julie Muhlstein / The Herald)

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Cemetery in Snohomish is not a funeral home, but graveside services of immediate family only are allowed during the coronavirus outbreak. (Julie Muhlstein / The Herald)

Tovrea taught geology and life sciences at Everett Community College for 28 years. An Army veteran, he was featured in The Herald in 2015 when a family picnic at a Snohomish park turned out to be a big surprise — a long-overdue Bronze Star Medal ceremony. The recognition was due his to heroic actions while serving on Mindanao in the Philippines in 1944.

“It’s terrible to lose someone. It’s a huge loss to our family,” Burrows said. She’s grateful she at least was able to see Tovrea in his final days. His death was unrelated to COVID-19, she said.

In Darrington, Jean Nations is mourning the loss of Charles Nations, her husband of 57 years. He died March 17 at age 77 after a long struggle with dementia.

“He was a very sweet, loving man,” Nations said. His life was celebrated at a private graveside service Monday in Darrington. “I wasn’t even sure we could do that,” she said.

Pastor Sandi McCaulley of the United Methodist Church in Darrington officiated. About 10 people were there, said Nations, who has long been involved in Darrington’s memorial dinners.

A whole-town custom, those dinners at the Darrington Community Center traditionally follow funerals of all who called the place in the shadow of Whitehorse Mountain their home.

The Darrington Community Center is the town’s heart, a combination gym and rustic meeting place that welcomes locals and out-of-town visitors for hearty home-cooked meals following memorial services. With Darrington being a long drive from anywhere, and without many restaurants, the dinners feed hundreds and provide fellowship to families in mourning.

“It shows love and affection for their loss,” Nations said. “It’s a blessing.”

Verner Tovrea, a World War II veteran, died March 8. His family hopes to honor him at a memorial service this summer.

Verner Tovrea, a World War II veteran, died March 8. His family hopes to honor him at a memorial service this summer.

Now the one grieving, she’s been a loyal contributor to the dinners for years. Her specialty is a Mexican-style casserole, but as elderly helpers have no longer been able to cook, she’s been making potato salad.

“As the older generation has passed, the next generation is kind of taking this over,” she said.

Like many in Darrington, Nations and her husband were born in North Carolina. The dinners reflect the community’s Tarheel country heritage.

While there was no communal dinner following her husband’s graveside service, “women brought dishes and put them in my garage,” Nations said. The bounty included ham, chicken, potato salad “and those famous Southern green beans.”

It’s a real help to have food for her family in their time of sadness, but Nations is missing the hugs of her community. Throughout Snohomish County, the state and country, people are paying final respects without the solace of friends gathering to share kindness.

Officials with Texas-based Dignity Memorial, the company that operates Everett’s Evergreen Funeral Home & Cemetery and several other local funeral providers, did not return calls this week.

At the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Cemetery in Snohomish, manager Luke Reading said Saturday’s email from the Department of Licensing specified that mourners stay six feet apart. It wasn’t specific about the number of people who could be considered immediate family. Reading sees it as fewer than 10.

“Tomorrow a son is coming on his own” for his father’s burial, Reading said. “Other family members will come later.”

How sad that is. I know this, though. When families choose to honor their dear ones, those gatherings will be meaningful.

Having endured two unexpected deaths, I made different decisions. My late husband’s life was celebrated with a funeral Mass five days after he died of a heart attack in 1998. After my 18-year-old son was killed in 2017, we waited a full year to host a remembrance gathering at Everett’s Legion Park.

Grief is hard. There is no wrong choice.

Jean Nations isn’t sure about a larger gathering — perhaps, “if it isn’t too long,” when life returns to normal.

“It’s kind of hard,” she said. “We have so many wonderful friends.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A driver struck a woman in a motorized wheelchair Saturday in Lynnwood. (Lynnwood police)
Woman on wheelchair hit by car in Lynnwood, seriously hurt

The woman was on a sidewalk, passing by a drive-thru in Lynnwood, when a driver pulled out and hit her.

A barge worker hauls in an oil boom before heading off with the remains of the Mukilteo Ferry Dock ramp and pier on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 in Mukilteo, Washington. With the new dock in operation, all that is left is to tear down the old ticket building. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Old Mukilteo ferry dock afloat on the barge of ‘Lincoln Logs’

The haul included 213 wood pilings, 15 concrete pilings, 47 steel pilings and a “Speed Limit 15” sign.

State Patrol worker from Everett charged with attempted child rape

Trevor Smith worked as a commercial vehicle enforcement officer assigned inspecting school buses.

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2021, file photo, the Legislative Building is shown partially shrouded in fog at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington state's richest residents, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, would pay a wealth tax on certain financial assets worth more than $1 billion under a proposed bill whose sponsor says she is seeking a fair and equitable tax code. Under the bill, starting Jan. 1, 2022, for taxes due in 2023, a 1% tax would be levied not on income, but on "extraordinary" assets ranging from cash, publicly traded options, futures contracts, and stocks and bonds. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Federal package could drive more than $10B to Washington

The state would get $7.6B for COVID response, schools and child care. Snohomish County is in line for $160M.

Samantha Lake
Missing girl, 12, found safely

Seattle FBI located Samantha Lake on Friday.

Everett man identified after being found dead in creek

The cause of death for Renee Baltazar Romero remained under investigation Thursday.

Jeanette Ho Shin Weddell, 96, died of COVID-19 on Dec. 29, 2020. (Contributed photo)
Marysville grandmother, 96, was one in half a million lost

In a week when the president took time to mourn COVID deaths, local families were grieving, too.

An access road leads into plot of land located in north Darrington that could potentially be used to build a 30-acre Wood Innovation Center, which will house CLT manufacturing and modular building companies on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Darrington, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$6 million grant is green light for Darrington timber center

The Darrington Wood Innovation Center is set to become a reality — bringing roughly 150 jobs with it.

Report shows vaccine inequities in Snohomish County

The county’s Hispanic population is getting doses at a third of the rate of white residents.

Most Read