They dot the sides of Whatcom County roads. Here, a flash of flowers as motorists drive by. There, a glimpse of a photo or cross at these roadside memorials – each one a private grief made public, a chance to keep the memory alive as time passes.
And some are still cared for after many years.
Here are the stories of the lives behind a few of the roadside memorials.
A big presence, then a void
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Dominic Joseph Swope died May 30, 2014, after his Harley-Davidson motorcycle crashed into the back of another vehicle on East Pole Road. He was on his way home from his job at Alcoa Intalco Works. The Everson man was 32 years old.
Three years later, his grandmother still tends to his memorial on East Pole, between Guide Meridian and Hannegan roads.
“I loved my grandson, and that’s the least I can do for him,” JoAn Siden said. “He was my first grandchild. I loved being his grandma. He was a delightful child.”
Going to the site is tough, Siden said, but keeping up the memorial makes her feel close to him.
His name is engraved on a plaque there. Other items include a white cross, a picture of Swope, plants and flowers. At Christmas, a small Christmas tree is put up.
The memorial is on private land, and the owner has been kind enough to let Siden keep it there.
Siden described a close relationship with Swope, who, as a young man, would call her for advice or for cooking help. He loved his motorcycles. He loved his children.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t ask ‘Why’? Why did he have to leave us so early. Why did God take him away from his family? His babies can’t understand it, and we can’t explain it to them, as we don’t understand it either. His loss is such a void in all of our lives.”
Swope’s family also has paid for a sign that was posted on Pole Road near the crash site in his memory, asking people to drive carefully. And Swope’s sister, Tara Ortiz, had his name added to the Biker Memorial Bar at Blue Mountain Grill on state Highway 9 in Acme, where he often stopped for a meal during his motorcycle rides.
His widow Kristal Swope and their children, Lilli and Cooper, have moved to Buckley. When they return to Whatcom County, they visit the memorial.
“I miss him,” Siden said. “God must have needed a big warrior up there.”
End of watch
Tucked away among a patch of trees on the 500 block of Samish Way in Bellingham is a memorial for Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Herzog, who died Sept. 13, 2001, after the patrol car he was riding in crashed during a chase of a suspect the previous day.
He was 27.
There’s a wooden cross, bare brown branches bent into a wreath, a copy of a prayer for police officers, and a small rock with the words “I love you Matt!” written on it.
Herzog also has been memorialized with a bench outside the south entrance to the Whatcom County Courthouse; honored on a memorial for all Washington state law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, which is located at the headquarters of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Blaine sector; and remembered on the Officer Down Memorial Page online.
On that memorial page, those who knew Herzog wrote about his smile and positive outlook, feeling diminished by his absence, and still missing him.
One person posted a quote from a book by Haruki Murakami: “No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.”
The faded remnant of a memorial for a boy sits in front of Squalicum Lofts on the 900 block of Squalicum Way, a short distance from Squalicum Creek Park.
Partially fenced off and being watched over by a small cherub, it’s a reminder of 8-year-old Michael “Mikey” Busby Jr., who was murdered near there on April 18, 2002.
The second-grader’s family had recently moved to the Columbia neighborhood from Kent, and the inquisitive boy was well-liked at the school he had attended for just seven weeks before his death.
His 16-year-old neighbor, Ryan Alexander, was arrested and convicted for the crime – Alexander bound, choked, cut and killed the boy with a massive injection of insulin.
Busby’s body was found in a field near what was then a concrete plant.
Years of care
Jerrad D. Ennen died nearly 20 years ago when he lost control of his motorcycle on wet pavement and slid into an oncoming vehicle in the 1200 block of Marine Drive near Smith Gardens.
The Shuksan Middle School student was just 15 years old when he died May 1998.
One year has passed into the next, and one decade has become nearly two.
In all that time, his family and friends have been caring for his memorial off Marine Drive, near Marine Way, just outside Bellingham.
The memorial bears Ennen’s name, a small metal motorcycle, flowers, crosses and a picture of the boy – all ringed by pavement stones.
The final resting place
People walking or driving through downtown Bellingham will see a swath of flowers in pots and portraits of a man along the sidewalk at East Chestnut and North State streets, in front of The Color Pot.
The memorial there honors Dragan Skrobonja, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash in the early morning hours of May 26, 2014.
Skrobonja was walking up Chestnut Street on the sidewalk when a black heavy-duty pickup tore through the chained-off parking lot of The Color Pot, killing him.
He was 37.
Three other men were injured when the pickup struck them. They survived.
The driver, 28-year-old Dustin Frederick Brown, was sentenced to 16 years and two months in prison – the longest sentence for vehicular homicide in Whatcom County’s history.
Skrobonja has been described as unforgettable, as someone always willing to help others, and as a person with a rare mix of charisma and kindness.
His parents Elza and Slavko, refugees of the Bosnian War who fled their country in search of a safer home for their son and daughter, tend to his memorial.