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October 23, 2017

10/11/2017 12:11:00 PM
Las Vegas tragedy hits too close to home
Bill Reynolds

The bullets rained down on Las Vegas, and tears flowed in La Conner.
In a terrible twist of fate, the tragic mass shooting of outdoor concert-goers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival inflicted painful wounds here as well.
Among the 58 innocents killed as a result of Stephen Paddock’s horrific rampage was 31-year-old Carrie Parsons, recently engaged in Hawaii to Randall Alvord, whose dad, Doug, co-owns the La Conner Brewing Company, on First Street with his wife, Pam.
Parsons, from Bainbridge Island, worked in Seattle at a staffing agency. She was much loved in La Conner, the Alvord family’s home town, both by those who knew her and knew of her.
“You were a bright ray of sunshine wherever you went,” Heidi Palmgren, of La Conner, said in a tribute to Parsons, posted on social media last week.
La Connerite Lisa Judy was likewise crushed to hear the news. Her grandfather, the late Jerry Blades, and Randall Alvord’s grandfather, David Alvord, were close friends for many years.
“I didn’t know her,” Judy said of Parsons. “I’m connected because of grandpa. I feel so bad. This just really tugs at the heartstrings.”
Parsons, a devoted fan of Country recording artist Eric Church, was among more than 20,000 people gathered for the Oct. 1 concert.
It was a long-awaited special event that turned deadly in a matter of seconds when Paddock opened fire from his room at the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
The death of Parsons also touched Leon John, who was in Las Vegas as part of a Swinomish Tribal Community delegation attending a conference there.
John and Doug Alvord are lifelong friends. They were La Conner High classmates.
John and Swinomish Tribal Senate chair Brian Cladoosby kept vigil at a Las Vegas hospital that night to monitor the progress of Melinda (Mia) Brockie, a Lummi Nation member with many Swinomish and La Conner area friends, who was among those seriously wounded at the concert site.
Brockie underwent surgery and remained hospitalized – comforted by the presence of more than 40 family members who flew to Las Vegas – for several days afterward, according to local friends.
Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), described the experience as an “emotional roller-coaster.”
“We’re so thankful,” he said, “Melinda is going to make it through something no one should have to go through.”
John marveled afterward at how Las Vegas and southern Nevada rallied to ease everyone’s collective pain.
“The community support,” he said, “is tremendous. People have been bringing blankets, food, and drinks.”
Coincidentally, a former La Conner resident is actively involved in that on-going community response.
Robyn Dalan Caspersen is interim President and CEO of United Way of Southern Nevada, comprised of 40 paid staffers and over 2,000 volunteers, and is a lead organization in connecting those affected by the shooting to counseling options and various other services.
Caspersen is a retired partner at the Deloitte multinational accounting firm, and has been part of United Way dating to her early career in the Seattle area.
Her immediate task at hand is in no way easy. One for which her husband, John, a 1977 La Conner High grad who was here recently for a class reunion, believes she is well suited to handle.
“Robyn,” he said, “is doing an amazing job.”
An amazing job under the most trying of circumstances as friends and relatives mourn the loss of loved ones and pray for the full recovery of survivors.
Palmgren perhaps said it best in her post dedicated to Parsons.
“There are no words to express the sadness I feel in my heart,” she said, “at the thought of the world losing such an amazing soul.”

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