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Thursday, February 3, 2000
Copyright 2000, The Detroit News
Family copes with son's death in California tragedy
Rick Giase / Associated Press
Sarah, top, and Rodney Pearson are shown with their children, Grace, 1, and Rachel, 6. The family was on Flight 261 that crashed Monday into the Pacific Ocean.
By Stacey Burns / Tacoma News Tribune
TACOMA, Wash. -- Monte Donaldson wanted the sun to follow him back home to gray Puget Sound when he returned from three weeks in Mexico.
"Hoping to bring back some sol for ya'll," he wrote Thursday in his last e-mail to his family.
But on Tuesday only rain soaked the Graham house where Donaldson grew up. The day before, the plane taking him to Sea-Tac Airport from Puerto Vallarta crashed off the California coast.
Donaldson, 31, and his fiancee, Colleen Whorley, 34, both of Seattle, were among the 88 people killed in the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261.
"We are just still in shock," said Donaldson's mother, Bonnie Fuller, her face expressionless. "This has been terrible, but I am sure there are going to be worse days ahead."
Less than 24 hours after the crash, Donaldson's immediate family gathered in the living room of their home in east Pierce County. More of the family was on the way home.
Water droplets dripped from the ceiling onto a couch. Fuller had the volume on the television, turned to a cable cooking show, turned down. Occasionally, the family turned to the news for the latest updates on the crash.
"I can't not watch it," Fuller said, tears starting to sting her eyes. "When I saw the bodies lined up it was pretty hard. I wondered which one was Monte."
Fuller sat on the couch and wrapped her arm around her youngest daughter, Tori Fuller, as the 26-year-old read the two e-mail messages Donaldson sent from Mexico. The eldest of three siblings, he wrote about the fun he and Whorley were having.
"Monte is very poetic," Bonnie Fuller said. "He e-mailed us quite often when he was away."
Donaldson, a 1986 graduate of Bethel High School, worked at a landscaping firm in Seattle.
Whorley, a Seattle native, worked at Microsoft as a graphic artist. Her family could not be reached.
Donaldson and Whorley met at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Bonnie Fuller said the two were friends for several years before dating.
Donaldson proposed to Whorley on Labor Day weekend and they planned to marry in September. Bonnie Fuller said the family already thought of Whorley as their daughter-in-law.
"We just thought she was the most special thing in the world," she said. "She was very nature, very unmade up, very loving."
The couple had traveled to Mexico with Whorley's family three weeks ago. The rest of the family returned a week later, leaving the couple to explore the country.
While they were gone, Adam Suhl stayed at their home and took care of Lucy, their black Labrador Retriever mix.
"They were wonderful people," Suhl said "This is just so unreal."
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.