Friday would have been Alex Thomas-Anderson’s 20th birthday.
His family would have gathered to celebrate. And his grandmother, as she did every year, would have brought him balloons.
But instead, Thomas-Anderson’s family and friends spent their afternoon at a funeral home, honoring the young Olympia man who died Oct. 21 in a shooting near Lacey. About 100 people attended the memorial service — more people than the funeral hall could hold.
“You could not have asked for a bigger heart, a more compassionate kid,” said Shannan Anderson, Thomas-Anderson’s mother.
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The memorial service started with a video slide show, which depicted Thomas-Anderson as a baby, then a toddler wearing a Barney costume for Halloween. Photos showed him camping, fishing, wearing a football jersey, and riding a motorcycle.
Thomas-Anderson was born and raised in Olympia, and graduated from Timberline High School and the New Market Skill Center in 2014. He volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and Youth Build. He is survived by his mother and father, Dave McClennan, as well as his younger brother Chase Thomas-Anderson, stepfather Dave Anderson, and his grandparents.
Family friend Paul McCartney spoke at the memorial service, and described Thomas Anderson as a “happy kid.”
“One of the greatest memories of Alex was his simplicity,” McCartney said. “He added a true elegance to simplicity. He wasn’t showy, the true definition of what you see is what you get.”
Friends and family told stories about Thomas-Anderson’s love of fireworks — he even spent time working at a fireworks stand — and his commitment to the people he cared about.
“You see the common theme in all these stories? Happiness,” McCartney said.
He said that no one at the service had been prepared to lose Thomas-Anderson.
The 19-year-old died in what the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office has called a “drug deal gone wrong.” Two suspects — 21-year-old Andre D. Wiley Jr. and 17-year-old Dallas F. Martin — are facing first-degree murder, assault and robbery charges in his death. An additional three suspects — Tyler N. Bremer, 26; Charles J. Tate, 27; and Mateo A. Q. Rodriguez, 18 — are facing a combination of drug possession and assault charges.
Anderson said she’s angry about her son’s death, but hopes someone will learn from what happened to him.
“Alex is going to make a difference somewhere, and I appreciate every ounce of love,” Anderson said. “... Just remember my son.”
The group said their final goodbyes to Thomas-Anderson by writing messages on dozens of blue and white balloons, then releasing them into the sky.
“He’s going to fly, he’s going to fly high,” Anderson said. “He’s watching over all of us today.”