The memorial for Lisa Marie Melancon began Wednesday evening on the street in front of her South Tacoma home where she was killed last week by a recklessly fired bullet.
More than 75 vehicles, half of them motorcycles, formed a procession there to accompany her family to the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, where more than 1,000 people gathered to remember a woman who loved her community and worked hard to make it a better place.
Eighteen Tacoma police officers accompanied the procession down McKinley Avenue to the Dome. In a few places along the avenue, people stood and waved American flags as the procession went by.
Many were members of neighborhood groups like Edwina Magrum of nearby First Creek Neighbors.
“I came to show respect for an employee of the city who worked really hard at her job and gave to her community,” she said.
At the memorial service, Melancon’s brother, Vincent Silva, recalled that brief ride to the Dome and seeing people standing by the side of the road.
“I cried on the way over here, ” he said, “as we drove down the rough streets that she kicked butt on. That’s why I cried. I cried for those streets and the time I’m going to miss spending (with my sister).”
Melancon, 40, who had worked for the city for 15 years, was a code enforcement officer with the Community Based Services Program. She knew that blight and crime go together, her supervisor, Lisa Wojtanowitz, said.
“She was the definition of customer service,” she said. “She treated everyone with respect. Bottom line she just cared about people. … She was tough but respectful.”
As a person and co-worker, Wojtanowitz said Melancon was “one of a kind … bigger than life itself … beautiful from the inside out.”
And there was her laugh.
At work, “we swear we can still hear her laughing,” she said.
Silva recalled a note left by a man who came to the viewing for Mel-ancon at Mountain View Funeral Home.
He wrote: “Lisa came to my house to enforce an alleged code enforcement violation but she left my friend.”
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland also spoke. She said she didn’t know Melancon personally but said the “room reeks of love, of kindness, of warmth, of unity … and that speaks volumes about the kind of person she was.”
Strickland noted that Melancon was involved in starting the Tacoma Cares program and she hoped Mel-ancon’s example of hard work for the city and its neighborhoods will carry her work forward.
Seven city code enforcement vehicles were parked out the Exhibiition Hall to honor Melancon.
Darren Pen with Safe Streets met Malancon 15 years ago.
“She was a sweet girl, tender, caring. No matter what language you spoke, she can break through that barrier. She doesn’t need an interpreter because her heart showed.”
He recalled she would say at meetings that if anyone has a problem, “call 591-5001. That’s Tacoma Cares.”
And if there was a unique problem in a neighborhood, he said she gave out her home phone number.
Pen called her “a mentor” to all the Safe Streets groups and through them her “compassion and dignity lives on.”
The last speaker at the 90 minutes memorial was Melancon’s sister, Stephani Bubnick , who noted that the Tacoma Police Honor Guard that presented the American flag at the start does that for heroes.
Bubnick said she didn’t even realize what a community hero her older sister was until the past week when she heard from so many of her friends, co-workers and neighborhood advocates.
“You told me she was a hero,” she said, thanking the gathering.
Silva also took time to thank the City of Tacoma, the Tacoma Police Department and the Tacoma Fire Department for their support at such a trying time for their family.
Melancon’s son Brendan Wilson , 19, said his mother’s death last Thursday night taught him “there is nothing to fear” in death.
“I’m upset. I’m angry” about what happened, he said, but knows he must forgive those who did it.
Still, he would like to sit down with those people at some time and tell them “what a beautiful woman you took away from us all.”