Edmonds chaplain remembered for worldwide impact

Eric Wilkinson


Sep 5, 2018

Ken Gaydos was the longest-serving chaplain in Washington state. His legacy wraps around the world.

At the core, Ken Gaydos was a husband and father of four. But his impact on the world reached far beyond his hometown of Edmonds.

Ken served as a chaplain for 47 years, comforting those during the most difficult days of their lives.

His sons Tim and Mark reminisced in their dad's office Wednesday. It was a bittersweet time as they combed through what has become a museum of sorts, for a man who lived every day to serve others. Photos and press clippings covered the walls. Piles of paper represented projects yet to be completed.

"I want to keep it just the way it is," said Mark. "I love it."

Tim called him a "father to the fatherless."

"He was in so many of these crisis situations where a father was taken away or sent to prison, we're realizing he had some other kids. There were a lot of people out there who saw him as a dad."

In his early years, Ken quickly saw the need for formal chaplaincy programs around the state and the nation.

He established Support 7 in Snohomish County which became a model around the world.

Ken's reputation grew, taking him to the world's most devastating disasters -- 9/11, Oklahoma City, Haitian earthquakes -- where he served as a mentor and chaplain to other chaplains.

Throughout his career, Ken had a hand in establishing chaplaincies on every continent except Antarctica. It has been noted by the International Conference of Police Chaplains that no other person in the U.S. has had the impact or influence that Gaydos has had on the institution.

Ken was the longest-serving chaplain in the state of Washington and one of the longest in the nation.

"As I look at him now and reflect, I say to myself, that's the kind of man I want to be," said Mark.

Prior to all this, Ken's life as a journalist helped lead him to his calling.

Specifically one event: He was standing right next to Bobby Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel moments before he was assassinated in 1968.

Another event was much more personal.

The death of his daughter Karen at birth helped open Ken's eyes to the suffering all around him.

"Thoughts began to circle in his mind about caring for people on the fringes," said Mark.

Ken was 79 when he passed away Monday night in Edmonds after a battle with cancer.

Police and fire crews escorted his body from the hospital in an act of reverence believed to be unprecedented for a chaplain in this area.

As their father's journey comes to an end, Mark and Tim considered their dad's legacy.

Mark thought about his own children and knew the legacy would be in good hands.

"What I'm hearing from them is they want to be more like Papa Ken. They want to be more caring for people and take the time to connect with people. That's the legacy that my dad would want."

"He was a great man," added Tim. "I don't know what I did to be so fortunate as to be Ken Gaydos' son."

Donations for the family can be made to:

J. Kenneth Gaydos Irrevocable Trust
Bank of America
306 Main Street
Edmonds, WA 98020

A memorial service for Mr. Gaydos is scheduled for 2 p.m. September 15th at Alderwood Community Church in Lynnwood. The public is invited.

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