Lynnwood Marine will ‘always be a hero’

SEATTLE – Steven Rintamaki climbed a tree to save a kitten. He played the violin at church and did cartwheels on the soccer field. He dropped marbles into his sister’s soup and waited for her to take a bite.

“Steven was one of those little boys who covered a lot of territory, no matter how large or small the space was,” said Pastor Kay Broweleit of University Presbyterian Church, who knew Rintamaki as a child when he attended the church with his family.

That playful, entertaining boy grew up into a committed and courageous young man, his friends and family said.

“In my mind, he’ll always be a hero, a patriot and a friend,” said Marine Sgt. Gary Bass, who recruited Rintamaki into the Marine Corps.

Nearly 300 people gathered in Seattle on Thursday to pay their respects at the funeral of Marine Cpl. Steven Rintamaki of Lynnwood, who was killed in Iraq Sept. 16.

Rintamaki, 21, died when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in front of the Humvee on which the young corporal served as the gunner.

“He understood the risk he was taking,” Bass said.

While everyone was there to mourn the loss and honor his service, said Pastor Ray Moore, they were also there to celebrate his “love of life and adventure, and how he loved to live it to the fullest.”

Many of those in attendance wore yellow ribbons, contrasted against black suits and blouses. Three photo collages of Rintamaki were placed in the lobby, showing him as a child, as a Marine, and with friends and family.

Inside the sanctuary, near the pulpit, were a large Marine flag and, perched on an easel, a framed photo of Rintamaki in full uniform.

To the sound of intermittent drumbeats, six Marines carried Rintamaki’s flag-draped coffin to a pedestal in the front of the sanctuary.

Myra Rintamaki – the Marine’s adoptive mother who raised him from the time he was 1 year old – and her daughter Lindsay each kissed the coffin as they stepped up to the pulpit to share their feelings about his life.

Rintamaki’s mother and sister, along with birth mother Stacey Swinson and uncles and a grandmother, all gave testimonials – sometimes with laughter, sometimes with tears, sometimes both.

Myra Rintamaki asked that family members not be quoted or photographed by the media.

The service was punctuated by uplifting songs and sermons. Pastor Allen Belton said that from what he knew about Steven Rintamaki, “he saw no color or class, that he was a young man with love for all kinds of people.”

He described Rintamaki as being “under construction” as a young man.

“He left the construction zone and now resides in the place where there’s no more construction,” Belton said. “No more construction is needed.”

Belton asked the crowd to applaud the approximately 10 Marines in attendance, resulting in a lengthy standing ovation.

Six of those same Marines carried Rintamaki’s coffin out and loaded it into a hearse, which led a procession to Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery. There, on a sunny, south-facing hillside with a view of Mount Rainier, 21 American flags awaited the procession’s arrival.

More than 100 of the people who had been at the service went to the graveside for some final words from Belton and family members. Sobs were punctuated by three solemn rifle rounds fired by the honor guard, and by the playing of taps.

The sorrow was temporarily broken by laughter when two nearby lawn sprinklers suddenly squirted to life, sending a cemetery worker scurrying and possibly reminding everyone of Rintamaki’s sense of mischief.

“What will you do in the next seven days that will express Steven and his life?” Belton asked. “I’ll leave it up to you.”

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or sheets@heraldnet.com.

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