Memorial pays tribute to park ranger killed on Mount Rainier

Jan 10, 2012

Family, fellow law enforcement officers and top government officials paid their respects to National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson at a memorial today. She was fatally shot on Mount Rainier on New Year’s Day after putting up a roadblock to stop a man who blew through a mandatory checkpoint.

As Margaret Anderson’s family was escorted toward the stage lined with her photos, everyone in the packed auditorium at Pacific Lutheran University slowly raised their hands to a salute. The din of bagpipes filled the room to honor the 34-year-old, the first female ranger ever killed in the line of duty. 

One by one, family members and co-workers made their way to a podium bearing the crest of the National Park Service to tell stories about Anderson’s work, demeanor, or just the little things. Her father, Pastor Paul Kritsch, remembered an old piece of newspaper he and his wife kept on the fridge until it yellowed:

“After Margaret went off to college, we had clipped out a cartoon from Dennis the Menace,” he recalled. “Dennis is saying, I’m having a Margaret-less day. That we did when she moved away, going off to school and being married. And that we will endure for the years ahead.”

Even President Barack Obama expressed his condolences for the loss of Margaret Anderson. He sent a letter to the memorial with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who read it before delivering it to her husband Eric and two little girls:

Dear Eric,

Michelle and I were so saddened to learn of your loss of your wife, Margaret, and we extend our heartfelt condolences. Among those who knew and loved her, Margaret will be remembered for her warm smile, enduring faith, and deep commitment to her family.  As a park ranger in the National Park Service, Margaret was devoted to protecting America’s most precious natural resources. Our nation is grateful for the dedication of those who risk their lives to ensure the safety of others and we honor Margaret for her service. Please know that her contributions will live on in the hearts of all those whose lives she touched.  My thoughts and prayers are with you, Anna and Katie at this difficult time. 

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

This year would’ve marked Anderson’s tenth as a park ranger. Her colleagues said she loved her job and her presence pushed them to be better at theirs. Chief Ranger Robert Danno, of the U.S. Parks Service, hired her for her first ranger position in Utah.

“We lost her way too soon and it’s unfair on all accounts – unfair for her professional family, but most importantly, unfair for Eric, Anna and Katie," he said. " She will always be my hero, in life and in death."   

With that, honor guards folded the flag draped across Anderson’s casket to give to her husband, as the bagpipes played a final tribute.