Four-year-old Harrison Fletcher happily climbs on his dad, Daniel Fletcher, after watcing a movie Wednesday afternoon. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Four-year-old Harrison Fletcher happily climbs on his dad, Daniel Fletcher, after watcing a movie Wednesday afternoon. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

‘We honor her memory,’ says widowed father raising little boy

Emily Fletcher lived with cerebral palsy and battled brain cancer. Her husband’s focus is their son.

They’re watching “Toy Story 3,” this dad and his look-alike son. Is 4-year-old Harrison Fletcher a fan of the Woody character, or of Buzz Lightyear?

“Woody!” the boy answered, looking away for a moment from the TV in their Everett apartment.

Daniel Fletcher, 36, was spending after-work hours Wednesday as he always does — caring for Harrison.

“He was 2½ when Emily passed away,” the father said quietly.

Herald readers met Emily Fletcher in 2015, when Harrison was 3 months old.

At the time, she had just finished her 33rd radiation treatment to battle glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive brain cancer. Her husband, newborn in tow, had been driving his wife to Kirkland’s EvergreenHealth Medical Center for treatments.

Her challenges didn’t start with the brain tumor, which was found in early 2015 and led to Harrison’s premature delivery. Emily Fletcher had lived with cerebral palsy. Nearly all her life, she needed a wheelchair. Her type of cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia, resulted from problems before birth. She’d endured many surgeries before the one in 2015 to remove the brain tumor.

Four years ago, during her battle with cancer, Emily Fletcher held her 3-month-old son, Harrison and joked with her husband, Daniel Fletcher. She died in 2017 at age 35. (By Mark Mulligan / May 9, 2015)

Four years ago, during her battle with cancer, Emily Fletcher held her 3-month-old son, Harrison and joked with her husband, Daniel Fletcher. She died in 2017 at age 35. (By Mark Mulligan / May 9, 2015)

None of it kept her from living fully and finding love.

Then Emily Knight, she graduated from Jackson High School in Mill Creek in 2000. She earned two degrees from the now-closed Puget Sound Christian College, where she met Daniel Fletcher. They were married in Jamaica in 2011.

“She was a crackerjack,” said Rebecca “Becci” Willoughby, Emily’s mother and Harrison’s grandmother, who lives in Vancouver, Washington. “Emily was a flamingo — she was known for being unique, standing out on her own, being different and being OK with that.”

Emily Margaret Fletcher was 35 when she died of cancer on Aug. 25, 2017. Along with her husband and son, she is survived by her mother and sister, Laura, her father, Clinton Knight, and other loved ones and dear friends.

Today, spunky Harrison is the delight of Daniel Fletcher’s life. Fatherhood has its joys, yet long days with Fletcher’s commute to Seattle are exhausting. Since completing a union apprenticeship, he has worked for Hudson Bay Insulation, a mechanical insulation contractor. His jobs have included work on Boeing’s 777X Composite Wing Center in Everett and now installing insulation on highrises being built in Seattle.

With the help of family, Daniel Fletcher is raising 4-year-old Harrison. And it appears he has the right stuff. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

With the help of family, Daniel Fletcher is raising 4-year-old Harrison. And it appears he has the right stuff. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

“I get up at 3:30 a.m. and leave by 4:50 a.m.,” Fletcher said Wednesday. Harrison’s day-care center opens at 5 a.m. They’re home by 3:30 p.m. After that it’s playtime, dinner, an early bedtime, and up again the next day to do it all again.

“Daniel is such a good dad,” said Willoughby. Her son-in-law was a devoted caregiver for Emily, too, she said.

A few weeks back, Willoughby and her family took a trip to San Antonio, Texas, with Fletcher and Harrison. They visited SeaWorld there. On Wednesday, Harrison talked about dolphins they saw, and showed a photo of a roller coaster ride they took.

The vacation was reminiscent of a trip they had all taken to Hawaii in 2017 after Emily died. Willoughby had thought, while planning the Hawaii trip, that her daughter would be with them. Instead, “we dedicated the whole trip to her,” she said. “We took our leis and let them go to honor her.”

When Harrison turns 5, Willoughby hopes to take him to Disneyland.

A picture from Daniel and Emily Fletcher’s 2011 wedding in Jamaica. The couple met at Puget Sound Christian College. (Family Photo)

A picture from Daniel and Emily Fletcher’s 2011 wedding in Jamaica. The couple met at Puget Sound Christian College. (Family Photo)

At home in Everett, life goes on for the father and son. Fletcher keeps pictures of his wife and their baby boy on a shelf — but not too many photos. “We honor her memory, and are moving on,” he said.

Coping with loss, grief and the aftermath is a balance, while raising a happy little boy. When Harrison asks about his mother, “I try to be straight up with it,” Fletcher said. “I answer the questions.”

There’s not much free time for the busy dad, who hopes to buy a house. On Sundays, he gets out to play adult co-ed volleyball at Cascade High School with the Underdog Sports League. Harrison’s great-aunt comes to babysit, he said.

Their lives include other members of Emily’s family. Fletcher said they plan to spend Easter with her father in Redmond.

Willoughby said there’s no shrine to Emily in her Vancouver home, where Harrison visits frequently. If a time comes when he’s curious about his mom, the grandmother said she has lots of pictures to share.

“So many people in his life have stepped up. People have just loved on him,” she said, describing her grandson as a well-adjusted little fellow. “Harrison is a talker. He has a lot to say.”

Every now and then, although Harrison does resemble his dad, Willoughby catches a glimpse of her daughter.

“Everyone says he looks like Daniel. There’s a lot of expressions he does that look so much like Emily,” she said. “I’ll say, ‘You’re just like your mama.’”

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

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