Proper Recognition for a Hero

August 6th, 2016

In January of this year, Evergreen-Washelli learned that a seventh Congressional Medal of Honor recipient is resting with us. Emil Fredreksen was a peacetime recipient of the Medal; Chief Water Tender on the USS Bennington, he helped save the lives of his shipmates after a boiler explosion on the  ship  in 1905. Fredreksen remained in the US Navy, retiring from the Reserves and living out his life in Seattle. In 1950 he died in Seattle and was buried without fanfare in Washelli Cemetery.

This past March, a ceremony was held to honor Emil Fredreksen and a military marker was installed at his grave; on July 14 a full ledger was placed on the grave, telling the story of the Danish emigre’s heroism.

We are honored to have Emil Fredreksen in our care, and it has been our privilege to give him the recognition he deserves. Please feel free to stop by and pay your respects: Washelli Cemetery, Section R, Lot 0609, Grave 12-A.~~ Mary Gibbons


A Few Last Words

July 14th, 2016



Obituaries and eulogies are among the last formal opportunities we have to say a public goodbye to someone. While eulogies have long been considered the avenue for friends and family to share anecdotes, jokes and high praise for the deceased, we now use obituaries for the same purpose.

In times past, most newspapers had a department that handled obituaries. To commemorate the passing of the average citizen, a simple paragraph would usually suffice:

“Mr. Walter Q. Abernathy, 1621 Boxwood Avenue, Poughkeepsie, died at his home on March 18, after suffering a stroke the previous Tuesday. Mr. Abernathy, a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, served with the Army Expeditionary Forces in France and received the Silver Star. He is survived by his wife, Marcella, of the home; two daughters and four sons. A memorial service will be held on Friday at 2PM at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Main Street.”

People of greater social and political standing would get more elaborate biographies in print; it became common to keep such information on file, so it would be ready at a moment’s notice. The same was true with the advent of radio and television. Of course, these files have to be updated periodically, to keep the information current.  One episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show had Mary and Rhoda getting a little too creative with the process (“Better Late… That’s a Pun… Than Never”) with disastrous, if hilarious, results.

In recent years, however, newspapers no longer keep a staffer for that purpose.  Some people write their own: Seattle writer Jane Catherine Lotter, Salt Lake City resident Val Patterson, and Beth O’Rourke of Paxton, Massachusetts all had obituaries that were self-written and went viral. For the most part, however, the task of writing obituaries has fallen to the family of the deceased and the funeral director. This has resulted in a more personal and intimate feel to most obituaries and gives the family the chance to share their picture of the deceased with the world.

One of the most famous obituaries ever written was that of Mary White.

Mary Katherine White collided with a tree branch while riding her horse one May afternoon; she died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Her father, William Allen White, wrote an obituary for his teenaged daughter which has been re-published numerous times and was even adapted for a television movie. It is loving, warm, surprisingly unsentimental and remarkably restrained. Written in 1921, it is a timeless piece of writing that gives us a marvelous picture of a real girl, and has made her immortal in the way that few things could.~~Mary Gibbons



Father’s Day Without You

June 15th, 2016

Father’s Day Without You

After the loss of a loved one there will be some times when grief is felt more sharply than others. Holidays aimed at familial relationships, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, can exacerbate one’s grief. Those two holidays can also be trying for people who have lost children.In her blog, a mother in the United Kingdom shares her thoughts on facing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day after her 12 year old daughter’s death from an aneurysm. In his blog posting, ”I am still a father: the Father’s Day Birdhouse”, Glen Lord reminisces about the last gift he and his son made together, and how despite his loss, he is still Noah’s daddy.

Most of us will outlive the significant adults in our lives. This leaves many years of holidays, special occasions and family gatherings with an empty place at the table. But it also gives new opportunity for creativity in our approach to these days. Many blogs have suggestions, but only you will know how best to honor the day. Planting a rosebush or tree, donating to a favorite school, or sharing memories with a family friend may all be excellent ways to celebrate someone we love and miss. Binge-watching dad’s favorite movies or visiting mom’s favorite places may have to wait until wounds are less raw, but at the right time can bring tremendous comfort to us. Some find it better to simply bypass the day rather than to emphasize it. There is no wrong way to go; it may take several attempts at recognizing–or not–those once-special days before you find what works best for you.

We hope you find your own special way to celebrate the precious bond between fathers and children. It is, in its own way, eternal. For fathers everywhere, those still with us and those who live only in our memories, and for those fathers who mourn, Happy Father’s Day.~~  Mary Gibbons


90th Annual Memorial Day Celebration

May 9th, 2016

On Monday May 30th, 2016, Evergreen Washelli will host our Annual Memorial Day Commemorative Service. Please join us as we honor America’s fallen and salute the flags on our “Avenue of Colors”.

In the morning, at 7:00 AM, there will be a Flag Placement at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Each of the 5,000 white marble upright markers in the Veterans Section will receive a flag placed by hundreds of volunteers that will come out for this event. Veterans, scout groups, churches, local organizations and families will place the flags.

The 1:30 p.m. concert will feature marches, patriotic selections and other music provided by the Seattle Pacific University Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Drum Corps. The Service of Remembrance begins at 2:00 p.m.

Following the Memorial Day Commemorative Service, we invite you to attend a guided tour of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery and learn about the remarkable lives of the Medal of Honor recipients in our care.

Our guide this year will be David Bloch, son of the Medal of Honor recipient Orville Emil Bloch. We are extremely honored and excited to have him as our tour guide.

David will guide us through the history of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, as well as teach us about the stories of Private William C. Horton, PFC Lewis Albanese, PFC William Kenzo Nakamura, 2nd LT Robert Ronald Leisy, Coxswain Harry Delmar Fadden, CWT Emil Fredreksen, and of course Colonel Orville Emil Bloch.

Kindly meet us at the Doughboy Statue in the Veterans Memorial Cemetery at 3:15 pm. We ask for a $5.00 suggested donation for attendance, which will go to the purchase of flags for the Avenue of Flags. For more information, and to reserve a spot, please call us at (206)362-5200 or email




Music and Roses

May 5th, 2016

On Sunday, May 15, members of the University of Washington ROTC will place more than 1,000 roses throughout the Veterans Section of Washelli Cemetery.  The roses are a gift from the Seattle Symphony and Snowman Foundation, donated to Evergreen-Washelli each year after their Ten Grands Concert. The concert is an annual fundraiser for music education in Oregon and Washington; the stage is festooned with roses for the occasion. The following morning, men and women of the University of Washington Army, Navy, and Air Force ROTC take the time and care to place them throughout the Veterans Cemetery on each marker. A ceremony begins at 9:00AM, followed by the rose placement.

Stephen Dewalt, a co-founder and producer of the Seattle Ten Grands, shares his story of it’s history below :

Roses for Veterans, The Seattle Ten Grands Story

Ten Grands is a piano variety show created by Michael Allen Harrison from Portland Oregon.   My wife, Kathy Fahlman Dewalt, Executive Producer of the Seattle Ten Grands, and myself in partnership with Seattle Symphony Orchestra, produce the show each year at Benaroya Hall, Seattle Wa.  It features 10 Grand pianos on one stage with professional artists performing as individuals and in group numbers.  The show is a fundraiser for musical education in our state.  As part of the show the stage is adorned with approximately 1500 long stem roses.  These roses are featured in vibrant bouquets and arrangements among and around the pianos.  Year after year, people would ask us, what do you do with the roses after the show?  Our answer has become a simple one…they are to adorn the graves of veterans.

 On April 2, 2011 the first laying of roses on the veteran’s graves took place.  This is the story of how it all began.  A dear friend and patron of the Seattle Ten Grands, Cheri Brennan, founder of Alliance Communications, connected with Brenda Spicer at Evergreen Washelli.   Cheri, whose father had served in the Navy in World War II, thought it would be a great symbolic remembrance and gesture to place the roses on veteran’s graves.  The date was set for the Sunday morning after the Saturday evening show and Army ROTC cadets were invited to place the roses.  Cheri asked me to speak to the Cadets because I am a Navy veteran…having received my commission from the University of Illinois NROTC unit in 1970.  While I had not made the Navy a career, I had made two deployments to Vietnam and the South China Sea, serving on a WWII vintage destroyer, the USS Chevalier DD 805.  What followed next was unexpected for me and it brings us to the second value proposition of the placement ceremony.

When speaking to the cadets prior to the placement of the roses, I was filled with the emotion of my own experience as a midshipman at Illinois.  At that time, my first drill team commander, Alan DeCrane, had graduated and served with distinction and ultimately gave his life in February of 1968 half way around the world in a place called Vietnam.  Our unit was called and many of us responded to be part of an honor guard for Captain DeCrane…a man so proud to serve his country as an officer in the USMC.  We went and in a small cemetery, on a small ridge, in a little town, on the prairie of Illinois we laid Al to rest.  My memory of that service is forever burned in my mind…I can feel it, I can see it, and I will never forget it.  What I understood with our first ceremony was that it was right and just that the roses be placed in remembrance and that it served as an opportunity for local midshipmen and cadets to participate in an honor guard.  Brenda asked me at the time, will you be back next year.  I simply said that the roses had found a home and that as long we produced the show we would “play forward” the roses in symbolic memory of all veterans.  With Skip Drep’s help, the officer candidates are instructed on the procedure for proper placement and Kathy and I place a bouquet on the Dough Boy statue at Evergreen Washelli.  Each year since that first honor guard ceremony, we have placed the roses with the help of the University of Washington and Seattle University ROTC candidates from all three services.

 Come join us May 15th at 9 am.  Come to the show the night before and see the flowers in their glory…then come to see them in their prime…adorning the graves of brave men and women that have given their lives in service.  More than the training opportunity for local cadets and midshipmen…it is an act of reverence that needs to continually be engaged…be remembered…be experienced…and be perpetuated.  As long as we produce the show, there will be this opportunity.  So what exactly do we do with the roses?…we give them life, we play them forward, we give them purpose, we give them a sacred right for our souls as American citizens.

Stephen R. Dewalt


Tickets for the concert can be purchased through the Seattle Symphony.


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.