A lot of people had mixed feelings for Ken. He was a hard worker, a great friend, a caring brother, a loving father, math wiz, and a giant pain in your ass, with a few demons to boot.
Born on April 25, 1959, to Richard Ellingsen and Sharon (Holert) Bennett. The second of four children, Ken spent his early years growing up on the west side of Vashon Island. He shared a magical childhood with his sisters Sally and Charlene, and his brother Curtis, growing up on a 5-acre farm full of fruit trees, pets, and gardens, with loving aunts, uncles and grandparents all around. Ken attended Vashon High School. He participated in many extracurricular activities including football, track and wrestling. He was also respected for being a popular hairdresser, particularly for his grandmother. People flocked to him for his stylish advice and help with homework. He was just a great go-to guy. If you needed your car towed out of a ditch, he was the one to get ahold of.
Sometime in 1991, along came Mari Cummings, a hip and stylish character who had been a long-time resident of Vashon Island. Originally from the Hoffmeister family, Mari wanted to settle down and have a family of her own. On September 4, 1993, she got her wish. Ken and Mari welcomed their son, Elliot. Ken, for the first time in his life was a father, at 35 years old. Elliot describes Ken as patient, careful and stronger than an ox. There are many fond memories in Elliot’s early childhood: Ken taught him things like how to correctly spell P-I-R-A-T-E-S, ride a bicycle and always put things back when you’re done using them. Ken would do things like wait alongside Elliot for the school bus or help him build a fort out of massive logs in the woods.
Unfortunately, life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Long ago we lost the version of Ken we expected to have. It is no big secret that he suffered heavily from substance abuse. The diminished version of Ken that we were left with was a quiet and gentle soul. As time went on, he was around less and less to see his son Elliot grow into the young man he is today. Now you may think the story ends there, but Ken, even in this state, was still an amazing man. His encounters with Elliot were far from regular, but he still clung to news of his son’s life, just as any dad would. He regularly attended Elliot’s home sports games throughout high school. Somehow that man even made it to some away games. Be it football in the fall, wrestling in the winter or lacrosse in the springtime, he was there. Ken was often aware of things going on in Elliot’s life; he knew all of Elliot’s stats, the teams Elliot just played, and classes he was attending. Always asking ”whatcha working on?” The man tried to reconnect in his own way, and nobody can fault him for that.
In the last few years of his life, Ken spent most of his time at his sister Sally’s house. Being in a stable living environment and with the support from close family members he was really starting to make a turn around. You would often find him with his nose buried in some book or outside in the garden. He would spend plenty of time with his niece Angela Larmore and her children. He was patient with the kids, teaching them how to play board games, hammer a nail or just spend time watching movies with them and even camping outside under the stars.
On August 12, 2017, Ken passed away from a heart attack, surrounded by the ones he loved. A celebration of life will be held at Dockton Park on Sunday, August 27th from 10 am – 2 pm. Please join us, if even for a few minutes, to share your memories of Ken.