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Son remembers parents who died at Mt. Rainier

On Tuesday, the evening his dad had planned to cook lasagna to celebrate his mom's birthday, Chris Blakely spent trying to come to grips with the devastating fact his vibrant parents were gone.

His parents, Robert and Frances Blakely of Puyallup, drowned Monday in Ipsut Creek just 50 yards from their favorite campground in Mount Rainier National Park. Frances Blakely slipped off a log while crossing the creek and her husband jumped in to save her, officials said.

Trapped in the creek's frigid, waist-deep rushing water by logs and other storm debris, neither could escape. Their friend and hiking partner, Debra Adams, went for help.

Robert Blakely was pulled from the creek Monday; his wife's body was recovered Tuesday morning. She would have turned 47 Tuesday; he was 44.

Chris Blakely, who will be 24 on Thursday, is getting married in August and says his parents paid off his honeymoon to Tahiti on Friday before leaving on their camping trip Saturday morning.

"That's something I've been thinking a lot about today," he said. "That's the last thing they did for me."

He also spent time Tuesday thinking about his father's bravery.

"It says a lot about my dad that he jumped in after my mom," said Chris. "A lot of people probably think they would have done the same thing, but it takes a strong man to do that.

"Obviously, I don't know for sure what my dad was thinking, but I like to think he was thinking he'd rather die than live and be without her."

It wasn't the first time Robert Blakely risked his life to save his wife. Last year, she woke up when an armed burglar bumped the couple's bed. She nudged her husband, who bolted from the bed, wrestled the burglar to the ground and held him until the police arrived.

The burglar fired two shots during the tussle but missed. He's scheduled for sentencing Friday, Chris said.

Robert Blakely also successfully battled sinus cancer in 2002.

"He had to wear a temporary palate in his mouth," his son said. "It was a big change for him and was horrible on me and my mom, but he fought and he survived."

Robert Blakely graduated from Sumner High School in 1981 and Frances grew up in Clara, Miss. The couple, who met in Germany while serving in the Air Force, loved the outdoors.

"I'd always see Bob hiking around the neighborhood with his backpack," said Michaelene O'Donnell, one of the couple's neighbors. "He'd even show up at the community meetings with a backpack and make a workout out of it. And she was always riding her bike and waving. I didn't know them well, but they were very friendly."

Chris Blakely said his parents went hiking about 20 times each year and that Ipsut Creek campground long had been their favorite spot.

Usually visitors can drive Carbon River Road to the campground, but after storm damage in November, the campground - the only one open in the park this winter - can be reached only by a four-mile hike up the washed-out road.

A bridge typically crosses the creek, but it was washed away, leaving hikers to find the best route to scramble across the debris. Rangers marked the safest crossing with red flags and the Blakelys were trying to cross in this area, park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said.

They crossed the logs safely on their way to the campground, but delayed their hike out by a day because of the high and swift moving water in the creek.

"Ipsut Creek was one of my favorite campgrounds, too, because we spent so much time there," Chris said. "But it's going to be hard for me to go back there to do anything but remember them every March 19."

Adam Lynn of The News Tribune contributed to this report.

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