Arbor Day

April 1st, 2016

Arbor Day
by Mary Gibbons

As we move into April and toward Arbor Day, we are once again delighted to embrace the beauty of the grounds here at Evergreen-Washelli.  In addition to being a peaceful place of interment, we are also the home of many varieties of beautiful trees: bountiful flowering magnolias, the stately poplars that line Aurora Avenue North, Japanese maples,  firs that sway in the wind.  We are even the home of a “Heritage Tree”, a scion of the George Washington Elm that grew in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This makes our grounds pleasant  for walking, quiet contemplation, and reconnecting with the loved ones from one’s past who rest here.

Many other cemeteries throughout the country are also arboretums, nationally recognized for their exquisite and diverse varieties of flora. Most of them were founded in the mid-nineteenth century, when the move was made from churchyard burial to more scenic settings farther from town. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts is considered the first rural cemetery, combining a park-like atmosphere with the necessary function of a cemetery. (Founded in 1831, its example was followed in other cities with other cemeteries, among them Graceland in Chicago, Woodland Cemetery  in Dayton, and Bellefontaine in St. Louis.)  By placing cemeteries away from the town center, it became a day’s excursion to ride out, pay respects to Aunt Mabel and leave flowers on the graves of Grandpa and Grandma. Families took the opportunity to enjoy the grounds, picnic, and take in the scenery. This also gave the incentive to plan grand and beautiful cemeteries, and begin what we know today as “endowment care.”

So the next time you visit us at Evergreen-Washelli, we hope you will take the time to look around. (If your dog is on a leash, he is welcome to look around too.) See how many trees you can identify. Listen to the wind roaring through the branches, and watch the petals of the cherry blossoms as they dance to the ground. Say hello to the geese. And bask in the restful spirit of this place.

*Arbor Day is April 29, 2016.*

For more on the George Washington Elm, please see a previous blog posting. Arthur Lee Jacobson has also written about significant trees in Seattle. His books can be found at his website.


Finding Emil

March 26th, 2016

Finding Emil

By: Skip Dreps

I have served on the Veterans Memorial Cemetery Advisory Board for more than 25 years and we proudly recognize the six Medal of Honor recipients buried here.

A short time ago, Evergreen Washelli Cemetery received a call from Ohio researcher Ray Johnston, who volunteers for the Medal of Honor Historical Society. He thought he might have discovered the burial place of a 1906 Medal of Honor recipient, who was buried in Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in 1950. The possibility that there might be another was staggering, and thrilling!

His name was Emil Fredreksen. He died in 1950 in Seattle, at the Marine Hospital.  With no known next of kin, he was buried without a headstone. In January, when we went to investigate, grounds keeping personnel had to dig down about four inches to uncover the temporary marker used to lay out his plot. There it read: E. Fredreksen, 1867-1950.  The only clues that he had served were a cryptic notation on his interment order and a faded receipt found in archives that he was eligible for a bonus in pension. He was buried quietly, without ceremony, and rested forgotten until now.

Research began to uncover records to tell a story of this man and his life. We were soon able to confirm it was the same Emil Fredreksen, United States Navy Watertender, who was one of the heroes of the USS Bennington (Gunboat #4) disaster that occurred in San Diego in 1905.

Eleven survivors were awarded our Nation’s highest honor that day, and it is the single event in military history where so many Medals of Honor were issued in peacetime. It also greatly impacted the city of San Diego. Citizens grieved the devastation of that day alongside the Navy. It is tragic that one of those brave men had been forgotten. As our team continued to investigate, more details began to emerge from the past about this overlooked hero.

Emil was born on January 5,1867 at Royal Laying-In Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. His mother was Birthe Marie and his father was Frans Edward Biener. While his parents were not married, he spent significant time with his father and step-mother, Kristine. He loved both his mother and step-mother deeply. He often combined both their names when referring to his mother, and called her Kristina Maria. He had a younger brother, Frederik, and a younger sister, Emilie.

In 1884, Emil immigrated to America. He had a spirit of adventure and was seeking a different life than he had back home in Denmark.

Emil arrived in New York at the age of 17 and began a lifelong career of a sailor. He started on a ship as a common deck boy and over the next 15 years learned a number of different jobs. He worked as a stevedore, a fireman, a quartermaster and a boilermaker. In 1897, at age 31, Emil enlisted in the US Navy and was assigned to the USC & GS Blake. Six ships and six years later, the Navy transferred him to the USS Bennington.

Emil is one of the eleven Medal of Honor recipients from the Bennington.  Yet, there was only a single, un-detailed line in his award that described his heroism. His citation reads,

“Serving on board the U.S.S. Bennington, for extraordinary heroism displayed at the time of the explosion of a boiler of that vessel at San Diego, Calif., 21 July 1905.”

There had to be a story of Emil – and it was to be found in The San Diego History Center in Balboa Park. It was important for me to travel to San Diego to try to find information to remember him when the cemetery places a Medal of Honor headstone on his unmarked grave. Maybe it’s because I will be buried in the Veterans Cemetery, too, and it felt like a neighborly duty; or maybe it was because the story of eleven Medal of Honor awardees in peacetime in a single incident was worth finding the tale and to keep the story alive.

With the help of a San Diego History Archivist, and after viewing reels of microfilm and several old volumes of naval archives, we were able to piece together the details of that day.

It was July 21, 1905. Under a lightly overcast sky, the USS Bennington was preparing to set sail to escort the battleship USS Wyoming to Port Harford, California for repairs. The crew had finished unloading a delivery of coal, and most were below decks, cleaning up before getting underway. Unnoticed by the crew on duty, a valve on one of the forward boilers was malfunctioning. At 10:38 AM, there were two dull explosions that echoed across the bay. Lieutenant Yates, who was on duty, reported to the San Diego Examiner that:

“The explosion scarcely made an audible noise. I was knocked forward in my chair and did not know what happened.”

The New York Times stated that Captain Wentworth, who was on shore at the time of the explosion, said:

“…he saw human bodies hurled over 100 feet upward.”

Thirty nine men were killed instantaneously, and many drowned before they could be rescued.

Faulty pressure valves caused the forward boiler to explode and be blown backwards where it collided with the other boilers in the hold. Immediately a scalding cloud of steam and debris filled the forward compartment, killing all inside. Pandemonium broke and fear pervaded the decks. The New York Times reported that steam, soot and ashes filled the ship, rendering even the main deck uninhabitable. LT Yates rushed out into the passage and described the

“…steam as so dense that I could not get a breath of air.”

Eye witness accounts state that

“…some of the wounded men could hardly be recognized as human beings, so blackened were they, scalded by steam, or blasted by the explosion.”

Sailors’ screams filled the air as the steam continued to hiss on.

The survivors and the city rushed to offer aid. LT Yates called for uninjured to assist, yet only twelve men on board were able bodied enough to respond. Boats were launched from the deck to transport the survivors to shore, and civilians rushed to rescue the injured in the bay. An eyewitness later reported:

“The men bore their injuries with the greatest fortitude. Laid out in lines on the beach, they gripped one another’s hands and shut their teeth in their agony.”

The city of San Diego was devastated by the event. Hundreds of men and women stepped in to help care for the wounded. All events were canceled, and the Friday evening concert became a memorial service. Two days later the streets were lined with a silent, grieving population as the funeral procession filed past on its way to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Forty seven men were buried that day, laid to rest at the hands of the surviving crew. Of the 179 men aboard, 66 died and another 46 were seriously wounded.

Shortly after the funeral, plans were made for a memorial to honor the dead. A sixty foot gray granite obelisk was dedicated in 1908 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. It is modeled after the Bennington Monument that stands in Vermont, erected to remember the Battle of Bennington. A fitting memorial to honor the lives lost that day. Thirty five white marble headstones stand in its shadow. Unlike the thousands of others that face toward the harbor, these headstones face south, looking out over the Pacific Ocean.

Emil went on to serve 33 years in the US Navy and Naval Reserve. When he was released from active duty in 1925, he moved to Keyport, Washington and continued to serve in the USNR. He was a man who worked hard his entire life. At age 75, he was still working, employed by Howard S. Wright & Co., a construction company in Bremerton. In 1944 he bought a small home in Seattle, just south of Capitol Hill. He lived the last years of his life there, dying of natural causes in 1950.

I went to San Diego to find more than just a story of heroism.

I went because no matter how long it takes, veterans have a sacred duty to honor their country by remembering its heroes.

The Cemetery has ordered and received a Veterans Affairs Department official Medal of Honor headstone. Today we will remember the act of bravery above and beyond the call to duty with full military honors, and tell more than a generic line and “…remember the Bennington.”

Soon a granite marker will mark the span of his full grave inscribed with an image of his ship and story for all to see.


Medal of Honor recipient Emil Fredreksen

March 2nd, 2016

Over sixty years after being interred with no known next of kin, we have confirmed that Emil Fredreksen (1867-1950) is a survivor of the USS Bennington Gunboat #4 disaster and one of eleven men awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions that day. His grave will soon be decorated with a granite marker to match the other Medal of Honor recipients in our care.

Little is known about Fredreksen before his enlistment in the US Navy in 1897. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on January 5th, 1867 and immigrated to the United States in 1884. In 1905, eight years after his enlistment, he became a naturalized citizen. According to records, he was a lifelong sailor, starting as a deck boy in 1884 and eventually earning the rank of Chief Watertender.

A service record that encompasses time on more than twenty ships is most notably defined by his time on the USS Bennington PG-4 gunboat. On July 21st, 1905, the ship was preparing to sail from San Diego to Panama when one of its boilers exploded due to an overpressured valve. Records of the incident say that “the ship shook violently for several seconds, large volumes of steam and ashes filling most of the living compartments and deck space”. With a total death toll of sixty-six and forty-six  severely injured, it was considered the worst peacetime disaster the US Navy had seen. Eleven of the survivors were awarded the Medal of Honor, including Watertender Emil Fredreksen, for “extraordinary heroism displayed in the line of duty.”

His career eventually brought him to Washington state where, after 33 years of service, he would retire in 1930 from the Naval Reserve, and live until his death in 1950 at Seattle’s Marine Hospital.

Evergreen-Washelli will be holding a military graveside service for Emil Fredreksen on March 25th, 2016 at 2 p.m. with the support of the US Navy. Light refreshments will follow. All parts of this event are open to the public.


Bennington Crew


Springtime At Washelli

February 23rd, 2016



Meany Pool - HeidiPac Luth 1Spring 3 - HeidiSpring - Heidi














All photos taken by our talented Funeral Director Heidi Hansen.



Rose Placement to Honor Veterans

January 26th, 2016

Rose Placement April 2nd, 2011

On Sunday, May 15th 2016, the UW Naval ROTC will be placing roses from the “Ten Grands” concert at gravesites at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park. The roses are a gift from  The Seattle Symphony and “Ten Grands” Seattle. They will first be used on stage at the annual “Ten Grands” concert at Benaroya Hall the previous evening.

Individual roses will be placed at the gravesites honoring veterans during a brief ceremony starting at 9 a.m. and will take approximately one hour to complete. The public is invited to observe this notable event. The event will take place at the Doughboy statue in the Evergreen Washelli Veterans Cemetery.

 The Seattle Symphony has been “giving the gift of music” since its inception in September of 1999. Its purpose is to promote the performing arts and to make them accessible to all youthful and “at risk” members of the community. Inspired by the vision of composer/pianist Michael Allen Harrison, Seattle Symphony, Inc. (501) © (3) provides instruments, scholarships and musical programs to underserved students in the State of Washington. The Seattle Symphony has raised more than $2 million in the past ten years including both Oregon and now Washington. All funding has gone directly to helping serve the youth in our communities through music.

2000 Roses to Honor Veterans

Seattle University ROTC Honored Veterans in 2011

“Ten Grands” presented by RBC Wealth Management is a benefit for The Seattle Symphony, a concert whose proceeds will enable the funding of several music programs, supporting targeted groups where music would make a positive difference in the lives of many children. On May 14th, 2016, the “Ten Grands” concert will be held at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, beginning at 7pm. The “something for everyone” concert includes classical, jazz, blues, gospel, boogie woogie, pop, and contemporary music (including some original compositions). The musicians will play simultaneously, as soloists, in duets, quartets and other combinations. Tickets for this worthy cause are available at the Benaroya Hall Ticket Office.


Looking for Hope in the New Year

January 8th, 2016


Written by Maria Kubitz on Thursday, January 9, 2014  on Open to Hope 

For many, welcoming in the New Year is a celebration of optimism and hope. Many see it as a fresh start and a chance to take steps to improve both their lives and perhaps themselves. Of course, this isn’t a view shared by all. For the newly bereaved, the New Year can be an incredibly painful milestone.

Thinking back to the first New Year after the death of my daughter four years ago, I was blindsided by how painful it was for me. She died on September 30, so I had been preoccupied with overwhelming anxiety over how I was going to handle Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. What would I do? What wouldn’t I do? What if I broke down or had a panic attack on a day that was supposed to be a celebration?

Since I had never been much of a participant in New Year’s Eve festivities, it didn’t even occur to me that the New Year holiday would be a big deal. But in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I began to realize I was actually dreading it. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that a new year was coming and my daughter wouldn’t be alive in it. I wanted time to stop. I actually got angry about it. There would be no resolutions. No hope. No optimism. All I saw was more impossible pain on the horizon.

Some of you reading this may feel the same despair I did four years ago. The idea that anything good can ever happen again may feel impossible. The mere idea of smiling, laughing, and enjoying life may feel like a betrayal of your loved one. And if you feel that way, it’s ok – it is a normal reaction to grief.

Only when you feel you are ready, I encourage you to give yourself permission to look for hope again. Perhaps it is like a New Year’s resolution. But unlike most resolutions that are doomed from the start because they are too ambitious and too vague, I suggest you set specific, very small goals with the aim of re-learning basic every day habits – but this time with a new perspective.

In the case of resolutions, most people fail because they try to take on too much at once and don’t have the willpower to change the habits that serve as barriers to their goals. I learned this idea after reading an article called “How Simple Mini Habits Can Change Your Life” by Stephen Guise on the Tiny Buddha website. The basic idea of the article is that you can change your habits by setting mini goals that are so simple to achieve, you actually do them. And if you do them consistently for a certain length of time – let’s say one month – they become a new habit.

Getting back to the idea of allowing yourself to look for hope in the New Year, if I were to suggest mini goals based on my personal experience, here’s what they might be:


One of the hardest parts of grief is our natural reaction to try to suppress the pain. This might be done through outright denial, keeping busy (and therefore distracted from it), numbing it with drugs or alcohol, etc. The problem with this is that suppressing the pain only makes it worse, and can even prolong it. By saying or writing one word that describes how you feel each day, the hope is that you learn to express your feelings so that you can work through them and ultimately let them go. This might be done by journaling, attending a support group – either in person or online, talking with family or friends, or even a grief counselor. Words that I might have used four years ago to describe how I felt could include despair, guilt, panic, fatigued, hopeless, numb, disbelief, angry, despondent, etc.


When you are deep in grief, you tend to focus on what you’ve lost and the searing pain associated with it. Your world might become bleak and filled with despair. By acknowledging one nice thing that happened that day, you can begin to create a habit of gratitude, hope, and optimism. Even if you had these habits before your loss, the chances are you will experience them in a new, more meaningful way. Nice things could be as simple as someone holding the elevator door for you, or as significant as a friend stopping by to say hello and let you know they care about you.


This may not be difficult for some, but for myself and many others I know, this can be challenging even when you are not grieving. But in early grief, your energy is usually completely gone most of the time. Even basic chores like cooking or laundry can seem downright impossible. If there is one time in your life that you need to take care of yourself, it is now. Examples of how you can help take care of yourself include: asking your family or friends to help with things you normally take for granted (cooking a meal, doing a load of laundry, etc.), eating something healthy when you don’t have any appetite, taking a nap when you feel exhausted, letting yourself cry if you feel the urge, etc. It could even be something like treating yourself to a massage to help relieve the aching tension you are likely feeling.


For some, this may be the most difficult mini goal of them all. I know for a long time it was for me. I felt that if I smiled, it would somehow mean I was ok with my daughter’s death. I literally thought I had to be miserable for the rest of my life because of how much I missed her. For the sake of my other children, I forced myself to smile again. For a while, the smiles weren’t authentic, but eventually they led the way to real smiles. Further down the road, the permission to smile led to feeling happiness and even joy once again. Happiness and joy lead to hope and optimism.

That is my ultimate wish for you – happiness, joy, hope, and optimism. While you will likely have to re-learn how to invite them into your life, your ultimate motivation and guide will likely be the deep, enduring love you feel for the loved one you lost. And I know there is no end to the depth of that love.


18th Annual Holiday Remembrance Service

September 15th, 2015

Join Evergreen Washelli on December 7th to remember your loved one.

Evergreen Washelli invites you, your family, and friends to join us in remembering your loved ones at our 18th Annual Holiday Remembrance Service Sunday, December 6th, 2015.

5:00 PM- Evergreen Washelli at Bothell: 18224 103rd Avenue NE – Bothell, WA

5:00 PM- Evergreen Washelli Tribute Center: 11111 Aurora Avenue North – Seattle, WA

Services include:

•Candle lighting ceremony

•Life tribute DVD

•Light refreshments

To have a photo of your loved one included in the Life Tribute DVD, email us or call the number below. Photos need to be submitted by November 27th, 2015.

For more information, please call 425.486.1281


66th Annual Veterans Day Celebration

September 15th, 2015

On Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 11:00 am, Evergreen Washelli will be celebrating our 66th Annual Veterans Day. The event will take place at the Doughboy statue at the base of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Veterans, their families and the public will gather for a special band concert and Service of Remembrance.  A tent will be provided in the event of rain.

7:00 am — we will host a flag placement at the Lower Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Each of the white marble upright markers in the Lower Veterans Section will receive a flag. Volunteers are needed. During this time before the program, we invite you to wander the area and learn about our Medal of Honor recipients.

10:30 am — musical entertainment before the service.

11:00 am —  the Service of Remembrance begins. The program will conclude with “Taps” and a Rifle Salute.

The donation of flags for this event is greatly appreciated. If you would like to donate a flag or funds to purchase them, or for additional information, please contact Brenda Spicer or call our main Seattle office at 206.362.5200

Read about the historic Doughboy dedication on


6th Annual Wreaths Across America

September 15th, 2015


Saturday, December 12th, 2015 – 9:00 AM

Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park

11111 Aurora Ave N. – Seattle, WA 98133

Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park is hosting an annual wreath laying ceremony in conjunction with the Navy Wives Club of America, Totem #277 and Wreaths Across America.

This year Evergreen Washelli will be celebrating veterans buried within its Veterans’ Cemetery section on December 12th, 2015 at 9:00 am. Following a brief ceremony there will be laying of donated wreaths by volunteers.

This special wreath laying ceremony is to occur simultaneously with Arlington National Cemetery and other Veterans Cemeteries in all 50 states (such as the one at Evergreen Washelli) along with veteran’s burial grounds around the globe.

Wreaths Across America organizes this event with the message of remembering our fallen heroes, honoring those who serve, and teaching our children about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families to preserve our freedoms.

This event is being made possible through donated funds and hard work done by the Navy Wives Club of America. It is their vision that has made this 6th annual wreath laying ceremony possible.  Wreaths will be laid throughout the Veterans Cemetery and also at the graves of the Medal of Honor recipients. One wreath for each branch of service will be displayed at Evergreen Washelli’s Doughboy statue in memory of all who have served.

It is interesting to note that each section with the Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery was named for a battle in which the United States Armed Forces participated. Bronze plaques in keeping with the military theme identifying each section of Evergreen Washelli’s Veterans Cemetery were contributed by the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton.

Donations and Volunteers are needed,  If you would like to participate in this year’s wreath laying ceremony, please contact Lorraine Zimmerman of the Totem #277 Navy Wives Club of America.  Or for more information about this event, please contact Brenda Spicerat Evergreen Washelli, 206-362-5200. For wreath donations, please refer to the link for more details. Donations need to be received by November 26,2013 in order to benefit the 2013 wreath laying ceremony.

About Evergreen Washelli’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery Arlington National Cemetery is America’s most renowned veterans’ cemetery, but for the Seattle-area veterans and their spouses, being interred in Virginia would greatly hinder their loved ones from being able to visit their graves as often as they would prefer, especially prior to the jet age. As early as 1904, local veterans of the Spanish America war began to search for ways to honor their fallen comrades with a local cemetery of their own, but the start of the First World War delayed their efforts. Their search finally ended in 1927 when Clinton S. Harley, then General Manager for Evergreen Washelli, a veteran of the Spanish America War himself, offered a large section of the cemetery for the burial of veterans and their spouses. Today Evergreen Washelli has over 5000 Veterans in its care.

Previous ceremonies have been covered by Seattle’s KING TV and its affiliates, the video for 2012 is available below.

King 5 Coverage of 2012 Wreaths Across America Ceremony


On The Northwest’s Tribal Nations

August 21st, 2015

9-15 totem pole

In recognition of Native American Day on September 25th we encourage you to learn more about the indigenous peoples of the area. The Pacific Northwest was and is home to several tribal nations. Some nations are recognized by the United States government and maintain some degree of Tribal sovereignty, which grants them internal legislative powers.

One of the nations not currently recognized is the Duwamish Tribe, is currently suing the federal government for recognition. The Duwamish Tribe had been recognized under the Clinton administration but a 2001 Bureau of Indian Affairs decision that the tribe had gone extinct.  The Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, located along the Duwamish Waterway in West Seattle, is a tremendous learning resource. Their art gallery and exhibits are free entry and are open 10:00am-5:00pm Monday through Saturday.

A little farther north, the Hibulb Cultural Center in Tulalip is a relatively short drive from Seattle proper and is an extraordinary resource for learning about the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, and Skokomish tribes. The Hibulb Cultural Center (or HCC) has an immense 50-acre natural preserve, and the center itself has a longhouse, canoe, and rotating exhibit. The current temporary exhibit (through September 27th) is Roots of Wisdom, a hands-on exhibit dealing with traditional practices and the underlying science beneath.

A common complaint about the core conceit of Native American Day (or Indigenous Peoples Day on October 12th) is that it oversimplifies tribal cultures by implying they are a singular, monolithic thing. Compare, for example, the willow and yucca Kiith that the Serrano lived in and the wide, semi-subterranean Pit Houses that the Shasta people built. Even within a given region art, architecture, attire and mythology could differ greatly– the same motifs might appear but their meanings and the ways the expressed themselves setting each culture apart.

Perhaps a better way to look at these holidays is as an invitation to learn more about each specific native culture and its history.  With such a wide range of extant cultures in our region, whether recognized or not, we should take every opportunity to  learn, enrich ourselves, and give back to these cultures.