By Pat Jenkins
People who use the post office in Eatonville are generally in sync with a congressman’s plan to rename it in honor of Mount Rainlier National Park ranger Margaret Anderson. Then again, some wonder if there isn’t a better a way to pay tribute to the slain former Eatonville resident.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert introduced legislation in May that would designate the mail facility as the National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson Post Office. The proposal is making its way through Congress in an approval process that includes the U.S. Postal Commission.
Anderson, a law enforcement ranger, was shot Jan. 1 by a motorist she was trying to stop after he drove through a mandatory checkpoint in the park for vehicle tire chains. The gunman was apparently fleeing after being involved in an earlier, non-fatal shooting in King County, but Anderson didn’t know that when she used her park vehicle to create a roadblock. He opened fire, killing her before fleeing on foot into the snowy mountain terrain. He was found the following day, dead of exposure to the freezing conditions.
Anderson, 34, lived in Eatonville with her husband and fellow Mount Rainier ranger and their two children. Eric Anderson and the children have since moved out of Washington so he can take a job elsewhere with the National Park Service.
Reichert said in May that dedicating the post office of her former hometown in Anderson’s memory is a way to honor her “service, her heroism and her life.”
On a recent sunny day, people coming and going from the post office stopped to talk about Reichert’s proposal. Nearly all of them liked it for reasons similar to his.
Among those not in favor of it or not sure was Christina Booth. “That’s a bit much,” Booth said..”I mean, I felt bad like everybody did about what happened to her. But it’s a U.S. post office. What does a post office have to do with the public service she was in?”
Naming a “landmark at the park” in Anderson’s memory “would make more sense. It would have more meaning,” Booth added.
Madoira Dawkins, a retired school teacher, agreed that a park or part of one would be a more fitting tribute. “But I have complete respect for the people who work at the park,” said Dawkins, who once worked and met her late husband there. And Joe Rebic, while also supportive of Anderson and other park workers, wondered how her survivors feel about a post office serving as a memorial to her. “Somebody should ask the family whether it’s something they would approve of or not,” he said.
Most of the post office patrons eagerly gave their blessing, however. Here’s a sampling of their comments:
* “What a fabulous idea,” said Jeanne Gilbert after parking her motorcycle.and pausing to hear a question about the Anderson honor. “She was a wonderful person and was dedicated to her family while also following her passion. She was an inspiration. We loved her.”
* “Go for it. It’s be a way to remember her,” said Morgan Phillips, a recent high school graduate who’s preparing to attend college in Indiana and become a dental technician.
* “Not a bad idea. She helped the community, so this is something that could be done for her,” Dick Minot said as he tucked his mail into a pouch on his bicycle for the ride home.
* “I think it’s neat, I really do. Here she was, doing a job she absolutely loved,” said Leia Barker. “It just makes me sad to think of her and her beautiful family. I’d see her around town. She was always very nice.”
The naming proposal may come up for a vote in Congress around the end of July or after Congress’ August recess, but nothing had been scheduled at the end of last week, said Natasha Mayer, a spokeswoman in Washington, D.C. for Reichert.
Reichert, who is running for re-election as the Eighth District’s representative, said he has the support and co-sponsorship of the entire Washington congressional delegation for House Resolution 5788. That’s one of the requirements for renaming a post office for a person. Other criteria, including an explanation of the reasons for proposing the new name, are required by an oversight committee before name changes are considered. Such proposals are considered by Congress only every two or three months. Reichert, a former King County sheriff, introduced his bill May 17 during National Police Week, a period honoring law enforcement officers.
The post office honor for Anderson has the support of Randy King, superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park In a statement issued through Reichert’s office, King has thanked Congress for interest in “honoring her life, calling and sacrifice.”