EVERETT — He was patriotism in the flesh.
Samiu Bloomfield was a tattooed, flag-waving, one-man parade at the corner of Broadway and Everett Avenue. He made your day.
Bloomfield died Sunday at a Seattle hospital.
Earlier this week, he was honored at his street corner by friends, fans and constant honks. It started at 6 a.m. Monday with someone singing “God Bless America.” Others left handwritten messages, flags, flowers and red-white-and-blue items to mark his spot. The memorial continues to grow.
“We are grateful as a family,” said his son, Vili Bloomfield. “As far as his legacy, this is what he would have wanted.”
The family has started a GoFundMe page to help cover his funeral expenses and medical bills. There will be a community service for him later, possibly in March.
Bloomfield, 70, went missing wearing pajamas on Jan. 16 from his son’s Everett home, where he lived. He had dementia, his son said. He somehow made his way to Seattle and was found by a stranger three days later at a park. He died Sunday, surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
His face was tattooed with stars and stripes. His body was tagged with tattoos from scalp to toe, even on his tongue. The tattoos were of words, circles, hearts, stars, flags, pot leaves, palm trees, unicorns and Jesus. A pen pierced his nose.
“He was a different kind of different,” said Bryan Thurston, who carried a large flag to Monday’s gathering.
He saw Bloomfield a few years ago and struck up a conversation that led to a friendship.
“He was one of the most intellectual people I’ve ever met,” Thurston said. “Just talking to him and listening to his stories about how he came here.”
Bloomfield grew up in a hut in Tonga, a Polynesian kingdom in the South Pacific. He left at age 19 as a stowaway on a boat, arriving in America alone, broke, dirty and hungry.
He worked on a fishing boat in Alaska and at a fish processing plant in Everett.
He married Dora, had children and bought a house on 16th Street in the Delta neighborhood that he painted like an American flag. Dora did many of his tattoos using a sewing needle and ink.
Bloomfield let the bank take his house after he lost his wife to illness, but he didn’t lose his patriotism.
He exercised daily at the downtown YMCA, then continued his workout boisterously waving an American flag on the sidewalk.
“It gives me a reason to get up every day,” he told The Daily Herald in 2016.
This wasn’t a panhandling act. He had retirement income.
“He never asked for anything,” Thurston said. “I was standing out there with him one time and someone tried to give him money and he said, ‘Don’t give it to me, give it to God.’”
Bloomfield often wore an Uncle Sam top hat. Other times, a hockey mask. Or he’d go shirtless, his muscled chest a tattoo mural.
“Growing up with him was exciting and fun. He was the life of the party, no matter where we went,” said Lailah, his daughter. “Walking down the street, people would stare. Some people would be mean. He would always smile, bow, say, ‘Thank you, thank you. You’re beautiful.’”
Siobhain Melcer wore red pants, a blue top with white stars and peace-sign glasses as she waved a flag in Bloomfield’s honor.
“He was exuberant,” Melcer said. “He just made you feel good. It was pure love he had for his community and his country.”
Social media posts about Bloomfield have drawn hundreds of comments.
Suggestions include a permanent plaque or a flagpole at the street corner.
“My hope is that neighbors will pay forward the spirit of Sam by being friendly and showing kindness,” someone wrote.
Another said: “If you ever felt mad or irritated, just running into this man would change your spirit. I feel he kept people from being so isolated as well. Sam was the truth in life.”
His son, Vili, said the family takes comfort in the outpouring his father has received.
“One girl posted that he talked her out of suicide,” he said. “You can go through the comments and get a picture of who he really was.”