RAINIER — The Rainier community gathered Wednesday at the Rainier Community Church of God to pray, cry and together mourn fallen police chief Ralph Painter. The gathering started with about 30 people in attendance and swelled to about 50.
"I weep for the Painter family and also for the family of the man who did this," said Rev. Steven Stecker.
Sniffles echoed through the chamber as residents prayed and recalled memories of Painter's love for his family and his Christian beliefs.
Former Rainier police officer Ira Swanson recalled his fondest memory of when Painter brought him to a Christian police officer conference under somewhat-false pretenses. Painter had told Swanson a former POW would speak and it would be just a bunch of officers sharing tales.
Swanson, who was not a Christian at the time, said he appreciated that Painter brought him there.
"It was a neat event, something I will always remember," said Swanson.
A few blocks away, rock music reverberated from a parked car outside City Hall, where about 30 additional mourners huddled together and "rocked out a bit, because that's what Ralph would have liked," said one person.
Corey Searle, a workout buddy of Painter's middle son, said he will always remember Painter as "a great drummer."
A few residents lit candles, and some laid down flowers or balloons twisted into the shape of flowers as a memorial for Painter outside of City Hall.
Painter is not only well known in Rainier but also in St. Helens, where he grew up.
Mayor Randy Peterson was in the same 1974 St. Helens High School graduating class and co-captained the cross-country team with Painter.
Peterson and Painter use to grab coffee together when Peterson worked at the fire station in Rainier.
"Just a nice guy, good sense of humor, and a good family man," said Peterson.
The mourning process will continue for the Rainier community, of which Painter has been a part of for more than 20 years.
A memorial service date has not been set. Community members who wish to provide meals for Painter's family should contact Tara Wikert via Facebook.
On Jan. 12 from 5-8 p.m., a spaghetti dinner at Beaver Homes Grange will be held in honor of Painter. Cost is $5 a plate, and all proceeds will benefit the Painter family. The grange is at 31105 Beaver Homes Road, off Highway 30 at Nicolai Road.