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Month after Washington mudslide: husband found, wife missing

By Phuong Le

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 19 2014 11:43 a.m. MDT

In this undated family photo provided by Greg Regelbrugge, John Regelbrugge III, and his wife Kris Regelbrugge, are shown. The couple were both killed in the massive mudslide that struck the community of Oso, Wash. on March 22, 2014, but while John Regelbrugge's remains were found three days after the mudslide struck, Kris Regelbrugge is still listed as missing.

Courtesy Greg Regelbrugge, Associated Press

SEATTLE — The family of John Regelbrugge III, who died along with his wife in the devastating mudslide last month, laid the veteran Navy commander to rest in a California cemetery with full military honors.

They also paid tribute to his wife, Kris, but her remains have yet to be found.

"We're still hopeful," said John's younger brother, Greg Regelbrugge, who helped search for both in the debris field left when the March 22 mudslide buried the residential neighborhood where they lived.

As Greg Regelbrugge and his family await word on what happened to Kris Regelbrugge, 44, he and others who lost loved ones in the landslide are experiencing the void left by their deaths and taking time to remember the lives they lived. The remains of 39 people have been found. Three others, in addition to Kris, are missing.

Greg Regelbrugge said he talked to his brother on the phone that morning, as he often did.

Even now, weeks after his death, he said, "I keep wanting to pick up the phone and call him."

John, who enlisted in the Navy in 1982, served on the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS John Stennis, according to the Navy. This year, he reported to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility as the officer in charge.

His brother said John took seriously things such as honor, valor and duty. Greg Regelbrugge remembered the time his brother drove all night to be with him when he got into a bad car accident when he was young.

The couple, who met in California, have three sons, two daughters and a grandchild. They were expecting another grandchild this month. Married for 22 years, they still had a lot of romance in their relationship, Greg said.

John brought Kris flowers, wrote her poems and dropped everything when she visited him on base. He called her "Bird," and the ringtone on his phone for her calls was of a chirping bird.

Kris "loved being a sailor's wife," and would often get dressed up when her husband came home from sea, Greg said. He said he and his wife would laugh so hard and enjoy their time riding motorcycles with the couple.

John and Kris moved into their new home on Steelhead Drive in 2007, drawn by the surrounding mountains and river. It was the first home he ever owned and he was so excited, his brother said.

The two quickly connected with others on the street. They formed a tight-knit community where neighbors crossed each other's lawns to attend bonfires, barbecues and parties together.

John loved fishing and swimming in the river, and took his brothers on hikes in the area.

Kris loved to bake and cook, said Debby Rule, who lived down the street from the couple before moving out last summer. If someone needed cupcakes for a wedding, she spent hours making them, she said.

"They were so much in love with each other that it was unbelievable," Rule said.

Greg Regelbrugge recalled the day family members went out searching for John and Kris.

They found John's sword and uniforms one day, and knew they were close. On the second, they were turned back. On the third day, they pushed their way through. That morning, John's son, Scott, told them he found his dad.

They found John next to his dog.

Still, there has been no sign of Kris.

"I don't know why we haven't found Kris. We know she's passed. We know there's something after this," Greg Regelbrugge said, but finding her would mean closure for the family.

"She was a strong woman. She did things in her time," he said. "OK, Kris, I know if you want to be found, you'll be found."

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