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Ebey Slough Bridge farewell a family affair | SIDESHOW

MARYSVILLE — Robert Rasmussen Sr. was the first bridge tender of the Ebey Slough Bridge, whose construction was completed in 1927, back when roads were built to accommodate Ford Model-Ts.

Robert's direct descendants returned to the bridge 85 years on Thursday, June 14, to join members of the public in taking one last walk on the old bridge before its dismantling begins, as the new Ebey Slough Bridge continues to be built alongside it.

The bridge tender's son, 87-year-old Robert Rasmussen Jr., fell prey to a quavery, emotion-choked voice as he recalled meeting his father at the Ebey Slough Bridge in 1946, after the younger Rasmussen had come back from fighting in World War II.

"You had to cross this water in a rowboat before this bridge," Robert Rasmussen Jr. said. "Dad got himself a good job here with the state. We had indoor plumbing and everything. He worked a lot of swing shifts here, because he would tend to animals on farms, so I didn't see him much during the days. He was always out doing something."

The grandsons of Robert Rasmussen Sr. are all in their 60s now, and as they joined Robert Rasmussen Jr. in checking out the aged structure, they recalled the time they'd spent with their grandfather as he faithfully executed his duties.

"I remember he had all these big tools here," said Leonard Stanton, a 66-year-old grandson of Robert Rasmussen Sr., who currently lives in Smokey Point. "He had this one wrench that just seemed huge to me at 7 or 8 years old, and these five-gallon buckets of grease for the gears."

"I remember it being stinky," laughed Dennis Rasmussen, a 63-year-old grandson of Robert Rasmussen Sr. and a cousin of Stanton, who lives in Bellingham. "My classmates all used to jump off this bridge to dive into the water below, but I couldn't because my dad worked here and all the other bridge tenders knew me."

While Robert Rasmussen Sr. once worked in the bridge tender house, Harry Sidler had his own reasons for feeling a sense of ownership over the old bridge.

"It took our five-man crew, including my brother Jake, about a month to repaint the underside of that bridge more than 40 years ago," Sidler said. "The inspector checked out work with a dental mirror. One of my masterpieces is going down," he laughed.

During the ceremony marking the old Ebey Slough Bridge's end of service, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring noted how rare it is for the Washington State Department of Transportation to carry out official decommissioning for the structures that it puts out of service.

"We've come here today to say goodbye to an old friend," Nehring said on Jan. 14. "As you walk out there, take some time to ponder the history beneath your feet."

Nehring noted that Marysville's population has gone from less than 1,400 in 1927 to enough that 17,000 cars and trucks a day commute across State Route 529 between Marysville and Everett. WSDOT Northwest Region Administrator Lorena Eng added that the new $39 million Ebey Slough Bridge that's replacing to old one will not only be wider and offer more vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian lanes, but it's also being built to current seismic safety standards. She credited the employees and elected officials of the cities of Marysville and everett with fighting to keep this project on the books for the past 20 years.

The dismantling of the old Ebey Slough Bridge began on Monday, June 18, and is expected to continue into early 2013, at which point the new bridge's remaining lanes should finally open to traffic.

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