By Pat Jenkins
George Pitcher didn’t like having a fuss made over him, and “he didn’t like going to funerals,” said his son, Jim. “But he deserves something special.”
Last week, George was laid to rest with military honors. His interment Oct. 29 at Tahoma National Cemetery in south King County brought a final closure to the Navy veteran’s life 20 years after it ended.
With his own health failing and no one else to make the arrangements, Jim Pitcher, 62, wanted to make sure his father received a fitting burial after keeping his ashes for two decades. “It’s time,” Joe said.
For a hand navigating the Veterans Administration bureaucracy to belatedly obtain his father’s funeral benefits, Jim, who’s also a Navy veteran and lives in Eatonville, turned to PC Marvets. The non-profit veterans service organization sends its 23-foot motorhome as a mobile office throughout rural Pierce County to help vets sort out their VA benefits.
“There were a lot of hoops and turns to go through,” including volumes of paperwork to obtain and process, before last week’s graveside service in the Maple Valley-Covington area could happen, said Erica Westling, a Marvets service officer.
By taking its services to outlying areas, PC Marvets: makes it easier for veterans living there to get assistance without requiring them to find transportation to VA offices. The program, which is based in Tacoma, was started after a “very generous” donation from the Puyallup Tribe to help pay for the van, Westling said.
Westling and Kelley Byers, the founder and chief executive officer of Marvets, make regular monthly visits to Eatonville Community Center, where the next one is scheduled for Nov. 13-14. It was during some of the past visits when Jim Pitcher got the help he needed. Along with that, Eatonville Family Agency, a social services organization based at the center, arranged for a volunteer to drive Jim to the funeral.
“I’m really grateful for everything,” Jim said.
George Pitcher, who lived in Eatonville, died in 1992 at the age of 84. He was a 30-year decorated veteran, retiring as a chief warrant officer in the Navy. He worked on the engines and power systems of vessels — “all kinds, even wood ships,” Jim said.
George served in the south Pacific during World War II. He was on a plane flying out of Pearl Harbor the day the Japanese attacked the Navy installation in Hawaii, Jim said.
George was left alone temporarily when his wife and Jim’s mom, Sally, died when she was 62. Jim was traveling when he got word from his dad that “it was time to come home,” meaning his life was nearing the end and he needed Jim.
“Dad took care of me for a lot of years, so I took care of him in his final days. When he died, I decided to keep dad with me. I kept his ashes,” Jim said. “But now, I’m not getting any younger, and it’s time to make arrangements for him and for me both. That time comes for everybody.”
Jim spent four years in the Navy as a machinist’s mate during the Vietnam War era. He has lived in Eatonville for 25 years. His wife, Jackie, died in May.
“It’s just me now,” he said. “Nobody has to feel sorry. I’ve enjoyed my life. And I know that dad’s taken care of.”