REDMOND, Wash. - A Redmond consignment store owner wants to close up shop after a man left a bag with a Ku Klux Klan-style robe inside it. The owner of Rags to Riches says the robe has “stolen her life” and she has burned it to reclaim her life.
Even in the embrace of loving friends, both old and new, the pain is never far away for Leona Coakley-Spring. Not since that awful January day when a man purporting to be a customer left this Ku Klux Klan robe at her Redmond consignment shop.
The son of the store owner of Rags to Riches had called police in January to report that he and his mother felt threatened by a white man in his 20s with brown hair.
“He said, 'Your mother really wants to see these dresses,'” Shane Coakley told KIRO 7 News in January. “He kind of opened the bag halfway and showed her the dresses, and she bought those two dresses from him for $30. When he looked at me coming out the back, he saw me coming and scattered out the door.”
After he left, they looked more carefully at the bag with the dresses and noticed a smaller bag.
“And we open up the bag and there was the KKK uniform with the patches and the hood and a hangman’s noose in the bag,” Coakley said.
"All I could feel was channeling the slaves, what they must have felt when they see this stuff or touch it or whatever," said Coakley-Spring, her voice breaking. "It just was a horrific experience. I can't explain that to anybody."
So horrific, she hasn't been able to put it behind her. So a friend suggested she burn the robe.
"If you burn it," she says a friend told her, "Maybe it could bring some closure."
So, led by Rev. Mike Howerton, the pastor of Overlake Christian Church, those who wanted to help make the hurt go away gathered in Coakley-Spring's neighbors' backyard.
"We redeem the very fabric that hatred has been woven in," said Howerton,
Then, with her husband, Terry, by her side, the moment they had gathered for arrived. And as the symbol of hatred burned, Leona was asked how it felt.
"I don't know yet," she said. "Isn't that weird? It kind of felt good to see it burn, to be honest. To see it burn was a good deal. To see it burn was better."
Then she stood in her husband's arms and began to sing, "We shall overcome some day."
But there is one thing burning the robe did not overcome. Her consignment shop is for sale.
She says she simply can't be there anymore.
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