Here are some of the bigger stories that made news in 2012 for Dispatch readers:
Highways and roads were blocked or littered with fallen trees, downed utility lines and ice during and after the powerful winter storm that besieged Pierce County and western Washington in January. Power outages for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses and shutdowns of schools, government offices and other services were also part of the storm’s toll. For weeks and even months afterward, the storm cleanup continued.
• Margaret Anderson, 34, and Nick Hall, 33, Mount Rainier National Park rangers. Anderson was shot to death on New Year’s Day by a gunman she was trying to stop after he didn’t stop for a mandatory vehicle tire chains checkpoint in the park. Hall died in June when he fell while helping rescue stranded climbers on the mountain. Both were remembered in memorial services – Anderson’s at Pacific Lutheran University in front of a virtually standing-room audience and regional television coverage, Hall’s at the park’s visitor center at Paradise. Before the year was over, Congress took steps to name the post office in Eatonville for Anderson. She lived in the town with her husband and two children.
• Connie Hellyer. She and her husband, David Hellyer, donated land that became Northwest Trek wildlife park. Eleven months before her death in June at the age of 97, she visited the 725-acre park on the 40th anniversary of the couple’s gift of land and said, “We had no idea how it would develop because no one had done anything like this before. We’re grateful it turned out so well.”
• A month after Hellyer’s death, another Northwest Trek icon, Dave Ellis, 65, died in July. The park’s deputy director served there for 28 years and was credited for many of its advancements, including the growth of its national standing as a zoological and educational facility. “He had a sense of professionalism that inspired people every day,” said Gary Geddes, director of the environmental division of Metro Parks Tacoma, which operates Trek. Ellis was 65.
• During the 40-plus years that Wanda Boness and her husband, Dick Boness, owned and operated Spanaway Speedway, the track hosted virtually every kind of motor sport – from NASCAR races to demolition derbies. They sold the track and property in 2003, and a housing development stands today where engines once roared. Wanda died in July. She was 84.
• The second time was the charm for Eatonville School District’s educational and operations levy. Defeated by a wide margin in February, it passed in April – a two-year measure at a property tax rate of $3.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, for a total of about $4.5 million per year to pay for teachers, aides, classroom materials,
services such as transportation and school meals, and extracurricular activities, including sports.
• The Bethel School Board found itself in the somewhat unusual situation of having to appoint three new members because of resignations in a single year. Joy Cook, Marianne Lincoln and Ron Morehouse left. Stanley Chapin, Michael Audas and Warren Smith came on board.
• Ashley Barker became the first female principal of Eatonville High School in its 97-year history.
• The general election drew a big voter turnout to pick a president, a governor and other state-level officials, and Pierce County officeholders. The winners included, in the most hotly contested race in the south county area, state Sen. Randi Becker was re-elected over challenger Bruce Lachney. Only five votes separated them in the primary, but Becker pulled away after that.
• Voters soundly rejected the town of Eatonville’s request for a levy to help shore up its malnourished budget.
• South Sound 911, a voter-approved (in 2011), new and vastly improved 9-1-1 emergency communications system countywide, went into effect this month.